Former felon arrested for voter fraud receives sample ballot weeks before general election

20 arrests have prompted questions over strength, legality of state’s case
Primary elections: Officials in Kentucky brace for long lines as dozens of polling stations close
Posted at 6:50 PM, Nov 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-14 14:29:22-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Last month, one of the 20 felons arrested in the Governor’s voter fraud round-up had his case dropped by a Miami Judge over a jurisdictional issue.

When Tampa police arrested Romona Oliver back in August for illegally voting during the 2020 election, officer body-cam footage showed the 56- year-old caught completely off guard and confused over the reason why.

“Oh my God. Voter fraud? I voted, but I didn’t commit no fraud,” she told officers as they were handcuffing her as she was heading off to work.

Like most of the other 19 former felons arrested as part of Governor DeSantis’ voter fraud roundup back in August, Oliver, who served 18 years in prison on a second degree murder charge, making her ineligible to vote, maintains her innocence.

“Somebody is dropping the ball, and she’s being prosecuted because of it,” said her attorney, Mark Rankin. Rankin said the state sent his client multiple voter registration cards after she registered, giving her the impression she was allowed to vote.

“My client got three different voter registration cards over time from the state and then recently even got a sample ballot from the local Supervisor of Elections because she’s still clearly on their list to register to vote.”

Rankin provided us with a copy of the sample ballot Oliver recently received. It was sent by the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office for the upcoming general election. The sample ballot details everything Oliver needed to know to cast her vote by mail, early or in person on November 8.

“It just blew my mind that she was still on their list and that she’d gotten that in the mail,” said Rankin, who added, “it tells me the state and the Supervisor of Elections, some combination of the two, is not doing their job,” he said.

When Investigative Reporter Katie LaGrone contacted the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office to find out how Oliver could have received a sample ballot when she’s facing charges for voter fraud as part of the Governor’s highly publicized crackdown on perceived voter fraud, a spokesperson responded by email.

In the email, the spokesperson, Gerri Kramer, explained the confusion boiled down to a name change. Oliver had registered to voter earlier this year under a new last name. While her previous last name was removed from voter rolls, the office hadn’t learned she was registered under a different name until after they sent her a sample ballot, explained Kramer.

Kramer also said Oliver has since been removed from the current voting rolls. According to the local Supervisor’s office, Florida’s Department of State, which is responsible for identifying if a voter is ineligible to vote, has yet to even contact the local office about Oliver’s eligibility.

“It’s just crazy,” said Tampa attorney Stephen Crawford whose client also received paperwork this year that shows there remains clear confusion between state and local elections offices about voting eligibility.

His client is an ex-felon who was also charged with illegally voting in 2020 as part of DeSantis’ crackdown.

But in January, he said his client received a letter from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office stating that it had received notification from the state that his client was ineligible to vote.

The problem, the letter wasn’t mailed until two years after his client registered to vote, was issued a new voter registration card, and voted.

“It’s basically telling us two years later that we can’t vote. Thank you very much. That helps me,” he said sarcastically.

“When I saw this letter, my reaction was this is classic c-y-a. They are attempting to cover their you know what,” Crawford said about state officials.

Despite multiple requests for comment, neither the Governor’s office nor Florida’s Department of State which runs elections in Florida, has responded to our questions about these cases.

Back in September, a state spokesperson told us individuals are ultimately responsible for figuring out if they can legally vote. Though voting advocates have raised a number of issues with that since there is no statewide database in Florida that tracks voter criminal records with voter eligibility. In addition, Amendment 4, which gave some ex-felons the right to vote in Florida, has been widely criticized for causing confusion since the amendment is riddled with requirements and caveats.

Crawford said the state has already offered his client, “a very lenient plea deal” that includes no jail time and no probation.

“The problem is they want us to plead guilty and we’re not pleading guilty to something we didn’t do. They dropped the ball, they know it,” Crawford said about the state’s case.