TALLAHASSEE — When police went to arrest Tony Patterson outside his Tampa home in August, he couldn’t believe the reason.
“What is wrong with this state, man?” Patterson protested as he was being escorted to a police car in handcuffs. “Voter fraud? Y’all said anybody with a felony could vote, man.”
Body-worn camera footage recorded by local police captured the confusion and outrage of Hillsborough County residents who found themselves in handcuffs for casting a ballot following investigations by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new Office of Election Crimes and Security.
The Aug. 18 arrests — conducted hours before DeSantis called a news conference to tout his crackdown on alleged voter fraud — were carried out by state police officers accompanied by local law enforcement.
The never-before-seen footage, obtained by the Times/Herald through public records requests, offers a personal glimpse of the effects of DeSantis’ efforts to root out perceived voter fraud.
“They’re going to pay the price,” DeSantis said during the news conference announcing the arrests.
Of the 19 people arrested, 12 were registered as Democrats and at least 13 are Black, the Times/Herald found.
Romona Oliver, 55, was about to leave for work when police walked up her driveway at 6:52 a.m. and told her they had a warrant for her arrest.
“Oh my God,” she said.
An officer told her she was being arrested for fraud, a third-degree felony, for voting illegally in 2020.
“Voter fraud?” she said. “I voted, but I ain’t commit no fraud.”
Oliver and 19 others are facing up to five years in prison after being accused by DeSantis and state police of both registering, and voting, illegally.
They are accused of violating a state law that doesn’t allow people convicted of murder or felony sex offenses to automatically be able to vote after they complete their sentence. A 2018 state constitutional amendment that restored the right to vote to many felons excluded this group.