Court Battles

Voting rights group files suit against DeSantis, others over alleged voter intimidation 

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
People vote in the midterm elections at a fire station in Hialeah, Fla., on Nov. 8, 2022.

A Florida voting rights organization filed a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), members of his administration and dozens of Florida election officials, alleging that the group discriminated against felons who could vote and created a “climate of intimidation.”

The suit, filed in federal court Wednesday, claims that the DeSantis administration purposely did not fulfill the requirements of the 2018 Amendment 4 to the state constitution, which restores voting rights for some convicted felons in the state.

“Florida has failed to realize the promise of Amendment 4. Since the Amendment was passed in 2018, the Defendants have created and perpetuated a bureaucratic morass that prevents people with prior felony convictions from voting or even determining whether they are eligible to vote,” the suit reads.

“This is not simply the result of administrative failures or bureaucratic ineptitude. Rather, the record reveals a years’ long campaign of acts and omissions by the Defendants that have thwarted the aspirations of the citizens of Florida who enacted Amendment 4, and the aspirations of those whose rights it restored,” it continues.

The suit also claims that Florida’s “election police” unit, formed in 2022 to investigate illegal voting and other electoral crimes, has discriminatorily targeted those impacted by Amendment 4.

“This effort, coupled with the earlier-created roadblocks to registration, has turned the simple act of voting into a complicated and risky venture in the eyes of those who were re-enfranchised by Amendment 4, as well as others who have been affected by the Defendants’ conduct,” the suit says.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a group which advocated for Amendment 4’s passage, brought the suit alongside four people who the suit says were negatively impacted by the DeSantis administration’s actions.

The group called the bureaucratic process required to be reenfranchised “an embarrassment.”

One of the four additional plaintiffs, Rhoshanda Bryant-Jones, refrained from voting in 2022 after she said she saw the election police unit arrest multiple felons who voted in the 2020 election, believing they were following the law. 

Bryant-Jones was reenfranchised in 2020 and voted in that election, but said she was intimidated by the DeSantis administration’s actions.

DeSantis’s office did not respond to a request for comment by publication.

Tags felon voting Florida florida election police Ron DeSantis voting rights

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