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Voter fraud arrests; Senate and governor races; Ian's citrus damage

The campaign for restoring voting rights to felons was resoundingly approved by Florida voters last November.
Wilfredo Lee
The campaign for restoring voting rights to felons was resoundingly approved by Florida voters last November.

A Miami judge on Friday dismissed one of the 19 voter fraud prosecutions pushed by Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, a significant development that comes as the cases draw scrutiny.

At a news conference back in August, DeSantis announced the arrest of 20 people for alleged voter fraud. They had been swept up in a probe carried out by the governor’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security. Flanked by law enforcement officers at the news conference, DeSantis said they would “pay the price.”

This week, new body camera footage from the arrests show the confusion — and anger — of those who were arrested. And the arresting officers were almost apologetic. The video was obtained by the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald through a public records request.

The footage shines a light on some of the confusion surrounding Florida’s laws restoring voting rights to convicted felons — after they’ve served their sentences. Amendment 4, which passed in 2018, restored the right to vote for most Floridians with past convictions. But a subsequent bill, which required felons to pay back all fines, fees and restitution before they could vote, added a layer of uncertainty.

We learned more from reporter Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times.

For more on the fallout, we also spoke with Abdelilah Skhir, voting rights policy strategist for the ACLU of Florida.

Senate and governor races

Then, a contentious debate between U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his challenger, U.S. Rep. Val Demings. Another debate is coming up next week between DeSantis and challenger Charlie Crist as early voting gets underway.

Bianca Padro Ocasio is a political writer with The Miami Herald. She joined us with more about the Senate and governor’s races.

Ian's citrus damage

Finally, Hurricane Ian caused death and destruction across a wide swath of Florida, killing more than 100 people and putting thousands out of their homes.

But the massive storm caused damage in other ways too. It’s expected Ian cost Florida’s agricultural sector more than a billion dollars.

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture released its assessment of the agricultural production losses associated with Hurricane Ian.

Christa Court joined us. She’s director of the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program.
Copyright 2023 WJCT News 89.9.

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Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.