By: J. Christian Adams
Last month, four residents of the Villages were arrested for election crimes. If these four accused double voters had voted in Hillsborough County instead, nothing would have ever happened to them.
This is because Florida faces a real and serious problem with prosecutors refusing to prosecute election crimes. Worse still, some county election officials refuse to even refer possible election crimes for prosecution.
My organization, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, used Florida sunshine laws to gather records and reports of potential election crimes that county election offices referred for criminal prosecution – and what happened to those referrals.
What we found was disturbing, and demonstrates why something needs to change.
We documented at least 156 case referrals from just nine supervisors of elections that were made to prosecutors in and around the 2020 election cycle. Of those, it appears not one single case was ever prosecuted by county prosecutors.
County election officials are best suited to detecting what is and what is not a potential crime.
Yet zero prosecutions are simply implausible, and it shows that leaving county prosecutors with the sole discretion to investigate and charge election crimes is a terrible mistake.
You can read the entire bundle of public documents showing this astounding failure to prosecute election crimes in our “Safe Harbor” report.
Nobody, not Democrats or Republicans could possibly want criminals to enjoy a safe harbor when they commit election crimes.
Sadly, in most of Florida’s largest counties, that is exactly what is happening. Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and others, saw county prosecutors ignore serious allegations of election crimes made by election officials.
It’s common sense that if you don’t prosecute burglary cases, you get more burglary.
And don’t think the referrals by election officials were fantasies. They involved real allegations of double voting, the dead voting, and noncitizens voting. No matter what party you are for, when real crimes happen, responsible citizens should care.
It’s even worse in Hillsborough County. There, the county supervisor of elections told us he flat refuses to make any criminal referrals for prosecution. In Tampa, it’s the Wild West for election crimes.
There is a way to fix this. Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed giving state government officials a concurrent power to prosecute election crimes. That’s a good thing. Right now, the law might as well not exist in some big Florida counties. Giving state prosecutors the power to charge election criminals will provide a check and balance to the failure to enforce the law by county officials.
J. Christian Adams is the President and General Counsel for the Public Interest Legal Foundation and a former Justice Department lawyer.
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