JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The News4JAX I-TEAM has found more than 20 people convicted of felony sex offenses who, according to state law, were ineligible to vote, cast ballots in the 2020 general election and were not purged from the voter rolls until nearly two years later.
The I-TEAM’s investigation found two of those felons were registered before their convictions but continued to vote illegally for years. State records show most of the 22 registered not long after a Florida amendment passed that restored voting rights for some felons.
None of the 2020 election results in Duval County were close enough to be swayed by these 22 votes, but these incidents raise questions about the vetting process for potential voters in Florida.
When filling out the form to register to vote in Florida, you must check that you are a United States citizen and that you are not a convicted felon, or if you are, that your right to vote has been restored. The November 2018 passage of Amendment 4 in Florida — which restored voting rights for some felons — and the legislation and lawsuits that followed have made that question complicated for some.
Blair Bowie is senior legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., who focuses on these issues.
“Confusion around whose voting rights have been restored and whose hasn’t is absolutely rampant,” Bowie said.
Amendment 4 does not apply to those who still owe fines and fees as part of their sentence, as well as those convicted of murder and felony sex offenses.
But state voting records show 22 people convicted of felony sex offenses in Duval County voted in the 2020 general election. Of those 22, the I-TEAM found 10 registered to vote in 2019, the year after Amendment 4 passed, and nine of them registered to vote in 2020.
But there’s one problem: Their voting rights hadn’t been restored under Amendment 4.
The I-TEAM reached out to Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan to ask why their data wasn’t checked when they registered.
“We don’t vet their information. We just turn it over to the Secretary of State’s Division of Elections Office, and when they receive it digitally from us, they will then vet the various information to make sure that this person is going to be eligible to vote,” Hogan said.
He says the state will alert them to felons illegally registering maybe a few times a month, but if an ineligible voter isn’t flagged, there is nothing stopping them from casting a ballot.
In the 22 cases in Duval County, it appears it was not the state who flagged the illegal registrations, but a citizen investigator.
“It’s my civic duty,” said Mark Glaeser, a real estate agent in Gainesville with a background as a database programmer.
Glaeser provided emails to the I-TEAM that appear to show he reached out to Hogan about the illegally registered voters in late 2021 and early summer of 2022.
Hogan confirmed they have all since been removed from the rolls.
Glaeser wants to see those sex offenders prosecuted for voter fraud.
“The Florida Statutes are very clear. These are clearly ineligible voters. It is easy to identify. The scary part is, if our state can’t identify these cases before they get to the polls and those votes are cast and counted, then... how are we supposed to expect them to catch more sophisticated voter fraud?” Glaeser said.
However, Bowie says she doesn’t think they should face charges.
“Absolutely not unless there’s evidence that they knew that they were ineligible,” Bowie said. “The crimes of illegal registration and illegal voting both require that you knew that you were ineligible.”
Only one of those 22 people has been criminally charged — Marc Crump. Earlier this year, he was sentenced to jail. According to his arrest report, he received a letter in the mail saying he didn’t have the right to vote months after he received a voter registration in the mail.
Glaeser is hopeful that proposals to beef up the state election crimes unit will lead to more prosecutions and eventually solve the problem, while Bowie proposes stronger oversight up front to stop ineligible voters from registering in the first place.
The I-TEAM has reached out to the Secretary of State’s Office about its vetting practices.
In May 2020, the then-Secretary of State Laurel Lee testified that they had a backlog of about 85,000 such files to review, but they were looking to hire more staff to get through that.
The Duval County Supervisor of Elections’ office has information on who is eligible to vote under Amendment 4 on its website. The Campaign Legal Center offers free resources to help people determining their eligibility to vote on its website.