On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced the arrests of two state residents on charges related to illegal voting in prior elections.
In an agency press release, the department revealed that Donna Prentes Brady had been taken into custody “on two counts of casting more than one ballot in any election, a third-degree felony.” An Ocala resident, Brady is accused of double-voting in both the 2020 state primary and general elections. This included voting in person in Marion County, Florida, and voting by mail in Sussex County, New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Fort Walton Beach resident Toye Ann La Rocca was separately arrested on “one count of false swearing of voter registration information and two counts of unqualified electors willfully voting, all third-degree felonies.” According to the agency, La Rocca violated state law last year by voting while on probation for a felony DUI conviction. The first alleged instance was an in-person vote in the Okaloosa County primary election, while the second was a vote by mail in the general election.
The Fifth and First Judicial Circuits of the Office of the State Attorney will prosecute Brady and La Rocca’s cases, respectively.
Last year, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law SB 524, which, in addition to implementing multiple election integrity-related initiatives, created the Office of Election Crimes and Security to “investigate election law violations.” While the office doesn’t possess the power to charge individuals for breaking the law, it can investigate potential violations and refer its findings to the state’s attorney general and Department of Law Enforcement.
Since its creation, the unit’s findings have led to the arrests of numerous individuals who appear to have willfully flouted Florida election law. In August, the office, in conjunction with the Florida attorney general’s office, identified 20 people who “illegally cast ballots in recent elections, with a majority of the cases coming from Democrat strongholds such as Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties.”
“We want to recognize … that in order for a democracy to persevere, in order for us to remain a country and a state under a rule of law, we must have men and women that are willing to enforce those laws,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said at the time.
As part of his 2023-2024 fiscal year budget proposal, DeSantis is requesting an increase in funding for the state’s Election Crimes and Security division. Among the items requested are “$3.1 million and 27 positions” to fully staff the office, as well as “$1.2 million for live call center services supporting the Statewide Voter Fraud and Assistance Hotline, cybersecurity awareness training for Supervisors of Elections, and an Elections Signature Verification Training Program.”
“The Governor’s funding proposals support what Floridians want to see foremost in their elections process – the highest degree of access and security with the assurance of transparency,” Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd said in a statement. “Increased staffing for the Office of Election Crimes and Security will do more to shield the elections process from bad actors and increase the effectiveness of investigations.”
The governor’s budget must first pass through the Florida legislature in order to become law.