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69-Year-Old in DeSantis’ Florida Arrested for Voter Fraud During Late Night

When the Tallahassee Police Department arrived to arrest 69-year-old Marsha Ervin for voter fraud, she was asleep. It was nearly 3 a.m. on Friday, and she or he became the primary Leon County resident to be arrested for apparent confusion over voter eligibility. Her attorney, Mutaqee Akbar, stated that Ervin had no idea why they were there after they knocked on her door and entered her residence. In keeping with court records, it had been a 12 months since she last spoke to an investigator from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who issued the warrant for her arrest late last month. The investigation was initiated by the recently-established Office of Election Crimes and Security, which investigates voter fraud allegations and received information from Governor Ron DeSantis’ office.

Ervin, who’s Black, claimed that she believed she was eligible to vote because she was told so when she was released from prison and had seen news stories indicating felons could vote. Nonetheless, in response to investigator documents obtained from the Florida Department of Corrections, she was never informed by the prison whether she could or couldn’t vote. Despite her ineligibility because of probation until November, Ervin registered to vote in 2020, received a voter registration card from the federal government, and took part in each the overall election and the 2022 primary election.

The Tallahassee Police Department spokesperson, Alicia Hill, responded to inquiries regarding the arrest, stating that an officer was proactively looking for wanted individuals and made contact with Ervin at her residence. The officer reported that he arrested Ervin for her warrants at 2:49 a.m. on Friday. Ervin’s attorney, Akbar, expressed shock at her arrest and criticized the arrest’s timing and approach, describing it as if she were a dangerous criminal. He argued that it was clear that nobody pursued by the state for voting ineligibly had any intent to commit fraud.

In 2018, voters passed Amendment 4 in an effort to revive voting rights to 1.4 million individuals with past felony convictions, excluding murderers and people convicted of sexual offenses. Nonetheless, the legislature passed a bill later signed into law by Governor DeSantis, which limited felons from becoming eligible to vote until they fulfilled all their legal financial obligations. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that the state was impeding the rights restoration process and failing to help voters in determining their eligibility under the amendment.

Following Governor DeSantis’ announcement of arrests of people who voted despite having past murder or sexual offense charges, many eligible voters, especially those with prior convictions and in communities of color, were deterred from voting. Despite the confusion displayed by those arrested, the governor’s office previously stated that Florida doesn’t criminally pursue cases where a voter’s confusion about Amendment 4 led to a violation of the law. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Election Crime Unit has received over 1,000 referrals related to voting violations, leading to the arrest of 31 individuals in various counties.

Mark Ard, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of State, reiterated that voters are liable for complying with state law and emphasized that individuals on felony probation haven’t accomplished the terms of their sentence. Dana Kelly, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, stated that the Election Crime Unit has received quite a few referrals related to voter eligibility violations, initiative petition fraud, and voting in multiple states.

As for Ervin’s case, State Attorney Jack Campbell stated that every case is evaluated based on facts and the law, taking into account the confusion surrounding election laws. He declined to offer specifics about Ervin’s case, because it could potentially influence a future jury. Ervin’s attorney, Akbar, hopes to have the costs dismissed and has presented evidence that his client was unaware of her ineligibility to vote. If the costs are usually not dismissed, Akbar plans to bring the case in front of a jury to find out whether Ervin intended to defraud the state, despite being approved and allowed to vote in previous elections.

Ervin is grateful for the support she has received from across the state since her arrest and is relieved to have been released on bond while awaiting her court appearance.

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