ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis accuses the local supervisors of elections of not caring about election laws.
It was one of many accusations the governor threw out when asked what role the state played in felons voting in the 2020 election.
But the Orange County Supervisor of Elections, Bill Cowles, says it’s DeSantis’ administration that failed to pass along pertinent information about voters’ eligibility in a timely manner, and a Florida senator and member of DeSantis’ political party agrees with Cowles.
DeSantis made the comments at a news conference in Live Oak, Florida on Tuesday.
“Some local jurisdictions don’t care about election laws. We do, and we think it’s important. If you’re not able to run an election right, we want to hold people accountable,” DeSantis said during a press conference in Live Oak, Florida.
DeSantis doubled down that local supervisors of elections are allowing convicted felons, whose rights have not been restored, to vote.
“They’re the ones that are registering people. If you go in your county and you register locally, you’re not registering in Tallahassee at the state government, so it’s really their responsibility to ensure that those voting rolls are accurate,” DeSantis said.
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State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, told News 6, it is clear the state is at fault.
“The breakdown is definitely at the state level, definitely at the Secretary of State’s office,” Brandes said.
Across the state, local SOEs have gone on the record saying it is the state’s responsibility to notify them of a voters’ eligibility.
Cowles told News 6 the state took seven months to notify his office that 59-year-old Peter Washington’s rights had not been restored.
By then, Washington had already been allowed to vote in the 2020 election.
“These voter registration forms go through a series of checks at the state level and at the state level one of the checks is the FDLE,” Cowles said.
Almost two weeks ago, Washington and 19 others were arrested for casting those ballots. Washington then entered a not guilty plea on Tuesday.
“Now they’re going to pay the price for it,” DeSantis said during that announcement.
He was joined by Cord Byrd, who DeSantis appointed as secretary of state.
“If evidence is found of a crime, you will be held accountable,” Byrd said.
Brandes says the breakdown is with Byrd’s office.
“It’s very simple, the secretary of state just needs to take responsibility and say, ‘It’s my job and if it slips through the cracks and people get a voter registration card and they end up voting, it’s my fault. We’re going to continue to put things in place that fix this,’ but it’s the secretary of state’s responsibility,” Brandes said.
It seems the governor and his team are not on the same page.
Peter Antonacci was appointed by DeSantis as the Director of the Office of Election Crimes and Security.
On Aug. 18, the same day of the news conference where the 20 people were arrested, Antonacci sent a letter to supervisors of elections in several counties, including Orange County.
“Through no fault of your own” convicted felons voted in your county in the 2020 election general election, the letter states.
News 6 reached out to the Department of State for comment but have not gotten a response.
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