Yesterday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 4B (SB 4B), an unnecessary and harmful expansion of the Office of Statewide Prosecution’s (“OSP”) authority to investigate and prosecute certain crimes related to voting, petition activities, and voter registration.
SB 4B was quickly introduced and signed into law after multiple Florida courts concluded that the OSP lacked the authority to prosecute some of the 20 people with past convictions who were arrested last August, after investigations by the Office of Election Crimes and Security, for what appear to be honest mistakes about their eligibility to vote. Rather than fix Florida’s complex and unnavigable system for people with past felony convictions to determine their voting eligibility, this new law gives Governor DeSantis and his political allies more authority to prosecute alleged voting misconduct that a local prosecutor might not be willing to prosecute because the evidence fails to show an individual willfully broke the law.
A coalition of non-partisan civil and voting rights groups, including NAACP Florida, ACLU of Florida, Common Cause Florida, All Voting is Local Action, Latino Justice PRLDEF, League of Women Voters of Florida, Legal Defense Fund, and Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law signed joint testimony opposing the bill.
NAACP Florida, ACLU of Florida, Common Cause Florida, League of Women Voters of Florida, Legal Defense Fund, and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law responded to yesterday’s signing with the following statement:
“In the face of losses in the courts, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have decided to change the rules themselves. Yesterday’s signing marks a new low, with a majority of state lawmakers – despite compelling arguments against the bill by the minority – giving DeSantis and his administration more authority to prosecute Floridians with past convictions who have made honest mistakes about their voting eligibility. It is not the voters who are at fault. It is the State of Florida that created this problem in reaction to voters’ passage of Amendment 4. The DeSantis Administration and the state legislature made it nearly impossible for people with past convictions to determine their eligibility to vote and the state continues to refuse to provide any meaningful guidance to ensure that these Floridians can find out whether they’re eligible to vote.
“Instead, state leaders have doubled down on their fruitless hunt for widespread voter fraud, which doesn’t exist, as evidenced by the Office of Election Crimes and Security’s very own data. This new law unfairly targets voters with past convictions, particularly Black Floridians, who have been disproportionately impacted by the prosecutions led by the DeSantis Administration.
“We are deeply concerned about the consequences: the law will only further intimidate Black and brown voters, risk further prosecutions of Floridians with past convictions for their inability to navigate an unnavigable system for determining their eligibility to vote, and disenfranchise eligible voters with past convictions from participating in our democracy.”