Earlier this week, I wrote about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ utter lack of self-awareness, evidenced in a rant he gave about Democrat-led cities resembling “Third World countries.”
The Republican has no room to criticize: He has despotic tendencies himself, and openly flaunts them. And now, thanks to body cameras, we’re all able to experience his right-wing authoritarianism, and all its shamefulness, up close.
The Tampa Bay Times shared video Tuesday of armed law enforcement officers arresting voters, a DeSantis initiative that he has claimed is tasked with rooting out electoral fraud. DeSantis, like most Republicans, has wed himself to former President Donald Trump’s baseless lies about widespread election fraud. The governor has signed off on a slew of anti-democratic measures, effectively putting his thumb on the scale for himself and his party in future elections.
The footage of DeSantis’ crackdown in action is infuriating to watch.
The effort apparently is focusing on voters who have been victims of a confusing process — one DeSantis personally complicated. In 2018, Floridians voted widely in favor of a state constitutional amendment that allows people convicted of felonies to vote, but not people convicted of murder and sexual offenses. DeSantis was elected governor that year, and in 2019 he signed into law a bill requiring felons to pay all outstanding court fees, fines and restitution to victims before they are able to legally vote. That made an already complex process even hairier for some people, who eagerly took advantage of the felony enfranchisement law without knowing their eligibility status for certain.
The woman in the video above, for example, is 55-year-old Romona Oliver, who served nearly two decades for second-degree murder, according to the Tampa Bay Times. After her release, she reportedly registered to vote in early 2020, wanting to immediately take advantage of the voter enfranchisement law — and later received a voter ID card from the state. As The Washington Post reported, it’s a common story among people ensnared in DeSantis’ voter crackdown.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for those familiar with voter suppression tactics, 12 of the 19 people initially arrested by DeSantis’ vote police in August were registered as Democrats and at least 13 of them are Black, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
This evokes memories of revanchist white politicians in the South after the Civil War. Florida has its own grim history of armed deputies of the state terrorizing prospective Black voters.
Ron DeSantis is evidently reviving that tradition.