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Defendants In FL Voter Fraud Cases May Avoid Punishment

Florida officials announced in August that were charging 20 people with alleged voter fraud, reports NPR. A statewide prosecutor secured one conviction through a plea deal, but at least three other cases have been dismissed on procedural grounds. Many people charged with voting illegally in 2020 say they thought they were eligible to vote, despite past felony convictions, because the state had given them a voter registration card. Twenty years ago, Ramona Oliver was convicted for second-degree murder, but by the time she got out of prison, Florida voters had approved a ballot measure, Amendment 4, that automatically restores voting rights to most people who had a prior felony conviction. After filling out her registration form, Oliver's local election official sent her a voter registration card. She cast a ballot in 2020. What she didn't know was the measure didn't extend to those that have been convicted of murder or a felony sex offense, which led to her arrest earlier this year. Roger Weedon, who is representing two individuals charged with voter fraud, believes there is a case to be made that the state entrapped these voters. He said that the state should have created a system where local election officials and formerly incarcerated people could see if they are eligible to vote. Weedon is trying to get the cases against his two clients dismissed, and so far, three cases have been thrown out. The state has appealed at least two of those dismissals.

Oliver took a plea deal that allowed her to plead no contest. Prosecutors dropped one of the charges. "And she had zero punishment in her case," said her attorney, Mark Rankin. "She had no jail time, no fine, no community service, no cost of prosecution or investigation, which usually applies, no probation. She just completely walked away." Rankin believes other defendants will get a similar offer. Neil Volz of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition says the system that tripped up these voters needs fixing. He is working with state lawmakers to create a database so people who aren't eligible to vote are not given voter registration cards. "This is a real sign for all of us to be careful when we begin to criminalize voting," he said. "We really need to focus on the voters. And in this case fixing the system so that we don't find ourselves in this kind of situation in the future."


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