WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Three Palm Beach County men who voted in the 2020 elections appeared in court Friday to face charges of voter fraud.
Less than a week before Tuesday’s primary elections, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the arrests of 20 individuals for similar charges in our state on Thursday.
All of those charged are convicted felons who never had their voting rights restored, because of the crimes they committed.
“There will be more prosecutions for some of the illegal felons,” said DeSantis. “There are going to be more prosecutions for people who voted in two different elections.”
In Palm Beach County, Luis Villaran, of Delray Beach, and Leo Grant, Jr., of South Bay, are registered sex offenders who did time after pleading guilty to having sex with minors.
Robert Simpson pleaded guilty to a 1987 murder in Belle Glade.
Arrest papers show Simpson applied to have his voting rights reinstated in 2017.
That same arrest report shows he received a Palm Beach County voter registration card shortly after Amendment Four, the statewide referendum that allowed felons convicted of crimes other than murder and sex offenses to apply to have voting rights restored.
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link said her office forwarded Simpson’s application to the Florida Department of State, the agency that was supposed to flag down Simpson’s eligibility to vote.
“The state, I think, after Amendment 4 got pretty backed up in getting through all of those,” said Link. “So, this person voted in 2020, because they were still on our list as eligible.”
The group Florida Rising criticized the Republican governor’s timing, noting Desantis was flanked by several law enforcement officers when he announced the arrests.
“It seemed to be a voter suppression or a voter intimidation tactic. More so than addressing Floridians in general, voters,” said Mone Holder, the director of advocacy for Florida Rising, a left-leaning advocacy group.
Holder added that many of those arrested were minorities and from counties that vote Democratic.
But DeSantis said people who break the law must be held accountable, even if just 20 have been arrested so far.
“Most elections are going to go outside the margins where some of this stuff is not going to matter,” he said. “But you have one or two that aren’t, and all of a sudden, the people’s will could be thwarted.”