This week, the Fifth Circuit State Attorney's Office completed its investigation into voter fraud in Lake County during the 2020 general election.
The investigation began after Gainesville-based database researcher Mark Glaeser cross-checked Florida voter lists against the FDLE's public Florida Sexual Offenders database. Through his research, he found that six registered sex offenders in Lake County cast ballots.
Ultimately, office decided it would not file charges.
"In all of the instances where sex offenders voted, each appear to have been encouraged to vote by various mailings and misinformation," Jonathan Olson, the office's division supervisor and an assistant state attorney, wrote in a statement. "Each were given voter registration cards which would lead one to believe they could legally vote in the election. The evidence fails to show willful actions on a part of these individuals. Therefore, the State is unable to file charges."
About the investigation
During the investigation, the state attorney's office verified that all six individuals had been convicted of various sex offenses and were ineligible to vote, according to Florida Statute 98.0751 and the state constitution.
The office contacted the Division of Elections concerning the individuals receiving their voter registration cards.
The Division of Elections is required to notify the Supervisor of Elections if someone is ineligible to vote. In this case, no notice was given and these six individuals were mistakenly issued registration cards.
The state attorney's office then looked into the requirement for charging an individual with voter fraud.
To charge an individual with voter fraud according to Florida Statute 104.011, they must be:
A person who willfully swears or affirms falsely to any oath or affirmation, or willfully procures another person to swear or affirm falsely to an oath or affirmation, in connection with or arising out of voting or elections commits a felony of the third degree.
A person who willfully submits any false voter registration information commits a felony of the third degree
The state had to prove that the actions of the individual were intentional, knowing and purposeful — which the office decided was not the case in this instance.
'I feel like he made a legal error'
Glaeser made it his mission to uncover Florida voter fraud in the 2020 general election. Through his research, he found registered sex offenders had voted in the election all across the state of Florida. He feels that the state attorney's office should've taken legal action.
"I have not seen any investigative reports or any investigative summary but these are not just sex offenders. These are also sexual predators and I feel like it's very clear that they are not eligible to vote," Glaeser said. "They've been convicted in the state of Florida for a sex offense and I feel like he (Olson) made a legal error."
When someone receives a voter registration form, it asks the applicant to check a box stating "I affirm that I am not a convicted felon, or if I am, my right to vote has been restored." These individuals did not check that box.
"The registration application form is very clear and unambiguous," Glaeser said.
What could have added to the confusion was Amendment 4, which was passed by voters in 2018. It was designed to "automatically restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, upon completion of their sentences."
Under the amendment, sex offenders were explicitly ineligible for rights restoration.
"For him to fall back on some sort of confusion, which I could understand regarding the convicted felons who owe money, that part I get," Glaeser said. "These are sex offenders so they're not covered by Amendment 4 whatsoever."
Other cases across the state
Although the Fifth Circuit State Attorney's Office is not prosecuting, other cities dealing with similar cases are.
"I've had some success here locally even with a convicted felon registering to vote. He just given three years yesterday and there are going to be nine more behind that," Glaeser said. "So the dominoes are going to start to fall."
In Duval County, there is an investigation underway into whether 22 sex offenders illegally voted in the 2020 election. One Jacksonville man was arrested on voter fraud charges.
And in Tallahassee, the state attorney referred 35 cases to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Twelve of these cases were sex offenders from Leon County and 23 were from Gadsden County.
"I feel like at a minimum (the Fifth Circuit State Attorney's Office) should've referred the cases to the FDLE," he said.
This article originally appeared on Daily Commercial: State attorney's office: Sex offenders who voted in 2020 won't be charged