Florida Senate passes bill clarifying election crimes prosecution

Bill would give state prosecutor jurisdiction in more cases

The Florida Senate.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s statewide prosecutor would have jurisdiction to prosecute more crimes related to elections and voting, under a bill passed by the Florida Senate Wednesday.

The senate passed the bill 27-12 along government lines.

“If we don’t protect our votes, we will lose our republic, we will lose our state, we will lose everything our founders gave their lives and fortunes for,” said State Sen. Jonathan Martin, R-Ft. Myers, the bill’s sponsor and a former prosecutor.

The bill, SB 4B, is in response to problems that arose in prosecuting 20 Floridians for voter fraud last year.

DeSantis announced the high-profile arrests of those Floridians with a major news conference in August, saying the convicted felons voted even though their rights had not been restored.

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Since the arrests, however, some cases have been dismissed because a judge said the Office of Statewide Prosecution did not have jurisdiction to prosecute those crimes since they happened within a judicial circuit.

This bill authorizes the OSP to prosecute any crime involving voter registration, petition activities for a referendum, a candidate for federal or state office, or voting in an election if the crime falls in more than one judicial circuit.

For instance, if someone fraudulently voted for president or governor, they would be subject to prosecution by the OSP.

Republicans say the bill is necessary to root out voter fraud, though they concede it is not a widespread problem in Florida. One senator chastised Democrats for opposing the bill.

“This should be a bipartisan effort,” said State Sen. Erin Grall, R-Ft. Pierce. “I’ve never understood why it isn’t, why both parties don’t understand the importance of our electoral process and rooting out fraud wherever it exists.”

Democrats, however, say the bill is more overkill in a situation that doesn’t merit it.

For instance, State Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, pointed out that the felons were also given voter information cards by election officials and therefore believed that had the right to vote, including several people interviewed by News 6.

“Many of the prosecutors have declined to prosecute these cases against individuals who were given these voter (information) cards by officials,” Thompson said.

State Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, pointed out that he would be in favor of the bill if he trusted Gov. DeSantis’ administration.

“You cannot escape, unless you’re living in a cave that I have not discovered in Florida, that ripping somebody out of their house at 6 o’clock in the morning in their underwear is political theater, not a full breadth and understanding of the law or the execution thereof. I’d totally agree with what Sen. Grall just said if I had faith in the executive,” Pizzo said.

The statewide prosecutor is appointed by the state attorney general.

The bill is one of several up for debate this week during the special session. The Florida House still has to vote on the measure.

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Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.