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Florida’s primary election results were certified amid some voting hiccups

Florida's Amendment 4 passed in 2018. The constitutional amendment automatically restores voting rights to felons who’ve completed the terms of their sentence - except those who commit murder or a sexual offense.
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Florida's Amendment 4 passed in 2018. The constitutional amendment automatically restores voting rights to felons who’ve completed the terms of their sentence - except those who commit murder or a sexual offense.

The Florida Elections Canvassing Commission has certified the results of the August 23rd primary elections. State leaders say the primaries went smoothly, but they’re still talking about work for the state’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security.

“Primaries were very successful once again. Florida leads the nation in elections and election integrity," said Secretary of State Cord Byrd, addressing reporters after a brief canvassing commission meeting Thursday.

“At every election, there are complaints that are made - some of them formal, some of them informal, and we look into all of them to verify whether or not they warrant additional investigation," Byrd said. "But there was nothing of a serious nature that we’re working on at this time.”

There were, however, cries of voter suppression in Alachua County, where several of the 64 precincts ran out of Republican ballots as voters stood in line. Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about that before the election results were certified.

“There's some local jurisdictions, they just don't care about the election laws. Well, we do, and we think it's important," DeSantis said. "So if you're not able to run an election right, then we obviously would want to hold people accountable. So stay tuned on that.”

With the situation in Alachua County still unfolding, DeSantis was quick to point out the state has a new avenue for going after issues that pop up with voting.

“We now have an office in state government that is an election crimes and basically voter fraud unit, and they are conducting investigations about election irregularities," DeSantis said. "They just brought charges against 20 people who were felons, murderers, rapists, who are not eligible to vote who voted in 2020.”

Florida voters passed Amendment 4 in 2018. The constitutional amendment automatically restores voting rights to felons who’ve completed the terms of their sentence. Under state law, Amendment 4 does not apply to those who commit murder or a sexual offense.

Byrd says anyone who questions whether their voting rights have been restored can find out through the Florida Division of Elections.

“We have made that public. It is on our website that anyone who has any doubt can contact us and we will actually issue them an advisory opinion," Byrd said. "These individuals did not avail themselves of that.”

Byrd added that the 20 people who were arrested in mid-August for voter fraud committed felonies that excluded them from have their voting rights automatically restored.

“Under Florida law, it is a shared responsibility between the state and the county supervisors of election to ensure that our elections - that the voter rolls - are as pristine as they can be,” Byrd said.

Gov. DeSantis puts the burden on the local supervisors of elections.

“You register locally. You're not registering in Tallahassee at the state government, and so it's really their responsibility to ensure that those voting rolls are accurate," DeSantis said. "We just did legislation this year that will hold them accountable for the voting rolls, if they're not policing that.”

The new law requires supervisors of elections to check voter rolls every year for ineligible voters. But, Florida doesn’t have a statewide database that could enable local supervisors to flag an illegal registration.

Leon County Elections Supervisor Mark Earley says everyone has to check boxes on their voter registration forms saying whether they are a felon and have had their rights restored. Then, they have to sign the oath.

“That's about it. The state validates that the social security number, or their Florida ID or driver's license number, actually match to a person with the same name," Earley says. "Other than those two requirements, we are required to put these voters onto the voter rolls, the active voter rolls, once those two conditions have been met.”

Earley also serves as president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections. He says the state Division of Elections is required under the law to get lists from local clerks of courts about convicted felons and compare those lists daily to voter rolls statewide.

“They prepare felony packets that they send out to each county if they find a potential match,” Earley says.

If the match is correct, the local supervisors then start the removal process. But Earley says there’s no vetting of a voter registration form.

It’s up to registrants to check the correct boxes and sign an oath that they’re being truthful.

Copyright 2022 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Gina Jordan