Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that 20 people who voted in the 2020 election would be arrested and indicted on Thursday for breaking the state’s election laws on felony rights.

The move, described as an “opening salvo” for the Office of Election Crime and Security, was created by DeSantis and approved by the Florida Legislature. Some fear the office may discourage minorities and other communities from voting. The office started its work from July 1.

DeSantis said the twenty people arrested had been convicted of either murder or sexual assault and were mostly from Miami-Dade and Broward counties. He said he was not among those whose voting rights were restored by “Amendment 4,” a ballot measure that overwhelmingly passed in 2018, with the exception of those convicted of rape or murder, as felonies in the state. Restoring the right to vote to voters.

“They didn’t go through any process. They didn’t restore their rights and yet they went ahead and voted. It’s against the law and now they’re going to pay the price,” DeSantis told a news conference. Thursday. “These people we are following – are outside the framework of Amendment 4.”

Possible fines are up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

DeSantis also said that the Office of Election Crime and Security will also look into voters who were undecided when they cast their vote in 2020. Just 11 million Floridians voted in 2020.

“It’s just the first step,” DeSantis said. “There are going to be foreign citizens. We want the federal government to work constructively on this, and so far, that hasn’t happened. We have an obligation to make sure that American citizens are voting.”

Cecil Scion, president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Florida, said there are still open questions about the election crime office, such as how law enforcement will be used and whether their presence will be felt at polling stations.

“It’s potentially threatening people. They think these cops – how are they being used? Are they going to stand on people’s shoulders?” he said.

Scoon said it was concerned that after DeSantis recently fired state attorney Andrew Warren, election observers and officials might be next.

“That was a red flag for me. Because he fired one person, there was concern about what would happen next? What’s going on?” Scoon said.

The news of the arrests comes at a time when many Republicans still believe there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, a claim made by former President Donald Trump. According to the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project, a CBS News poll from July showed that 69% of Republicans believe there was widespread voter fraud in 2020, despite the disapproval of nearly 70 legal challenges.

“We must have leaders elected who are ensuring free and fair elections and reassuring our public and citizens that they can have confidence in the election process,” said Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd. “I am sure this will allay the fear that behind the scenes, within the state government, people are ignoring the violation of the law. It is not so.”

Several Republican candidates on the ballot in November indicated they had doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, including at least nine of the 24 candidates for secretary of state, often the highest election official in the state, CBS News According to the analysis.

DeSantis has often said that the 2020 election in Florida was very safe, and praised the quick counting of state ballots compared to other battleground states, which took much longer.

But he has also shared the stage with candidates who believe the election was stolen, such as Arizona’s gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano.

A potential presidential candidate in 2024, DeSantis is up for re-election this fall. Florida’s primaries are Tuesday, August 23, but he is running unopposed.

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