Prosecutors will not pursue charges against a Black Florida woman apprehended by police on accusations of voter fraud.
According to CNN, after receiving information from a Florida Office of Election Crimes and Security investigation, Tallahassee police showed up at the home of Marsha Ervin, 69, at around 3 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 29 to execute a warrant for her alleged crimes – an arrest that drew widespread criticism.
“This office has no interest at all in prosecuting people who are innocent,” State Attorney Jack Campbell said Tuesday, WCTV News reported.
Ervin told investigators she believed she was allowed to vote when she cast a ballot in the 2020 general and 2022 primary elections. However, she was on probation after serving time in prison, and the state hadn’t yet restored her voting rights.
In a statement, Campbell said investigators discovered “subsequent information” after Ervin’s arrest that “compromised the state’s ability to proceed further.”
Prosecutors ultimately could not show Ervin’s intent to deceive the state, instead finding evidence to corroborate Ervin’s claims that she believed she was legally permitted to cast ballots.
“There is no witness who can testify to the defendant being told that she was ineligible to vote,” Campbell added, WCTV reported, “and some evidence to corroborate her assertions that she believed she could lawfully vote.”
Campbell said Ervin’s situation changed after he spoke with her probation officer and the Leon County supervisor of elections.
Ervin’s probation officer gave the state documents supporting her claims she believed she could legally vote when she did so. Paperwork she signed in 2018 outlining her probation terms failed to mention she could not vote.
Campbell said it was when Ervin signed probation terms last October that the documents clarified she couldn’t. He stated the timeline is important, as there is no evidence Ervin voted after receiving that information.
“There was a change of circumstances,” Campbell said, according to WCTV. “I don’t want people to be scared to vote. People need to be able to vote.”
The Tallahassee NAACP and civil rights attorney Ben Crump expressed outrage last week and demanded the state of Florida drop all charges against Ervin. They alleged voter intimidation and discrimination, noting that Ervin had a voter registration card and had cause to think she was entitled to vote.
Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley also told Campbell he felt it was all “an innocent mistake.” Last week, he expressed compassion for Ervin and said he didn’t believe there was intent to defraud.
Despite their opposing views in some areas, Campbell, Earley, Crump and Ervin all agree on one thing: Registering to vote can be difficult for felons in Florida. The Tallahassee NAACP, Crump and Ervin attorney Mutaqee Akbar called for changes to the registration procedure for offenders to avoid misunderstandings and charges like those Ervin faced.
They suggested the Division of Elections of the Florida Department of State create a new checkbox for felons seeking voter registration to verify eligibility further. Advocates also claim the move would shift the obligation of certifying voter registration to the state.
“I was excited for and happy for Ms. Ervin,” Akbar told CNN after Ervin’s charges were dropped. “I don’t think she deserved to go through this whole process. I am happy that this part of it is all over for her.”
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