Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said his new election police force has charged 20 people with voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
DeSantis, a Republican who drew applause from backers attending a news conference on Thursday, said his election cops identified people prohibited from voting because of murder or sexual assault convictions, but voted anyway in 2020.
“They did not go through any process. They did not get their rights restored and yet they went ahead and voted anyways. That is against the law and now they’re going to pay the price for it,” DeSantis said. “These people who we’re following up — are outside the contours of Amendment 4.”
Murder and sexual assault offenses are an exception to Florida’s Amendment 4, which allows felons to reclaim their voting rights, according to CBS News.
DeSantis said the majority of those charged voted in either Broward, Miami-Dade or Palm Beach counties. He did not provide details about any individual cases.
Election fraud is a third-degree felony, DeSantis said, and those charged face maximum punishments of five years in prison and $5,000 fines.
The state launched the first Office of Election Crimes and Security in the country in early July, drawing condemnation from critics who called it a voter “intimidation” tactic. More than 11 million Florida residents voted in the 2020 election. There’s no evidence voter fraud is a widespread issue there or anywhere else in the United States.
DeSantis said more prosecutions are to come, with investigators focusing on people who voted in two separate jurisdictions and undocumented immigrants.
“This is just the first step,” DeSantis said. “There are going to be foreign nationals. We want the federal government to be working constructively on this, and so far, that has not been the case. We have an obligation to make sure that U.S. citizens are voting.”
The politically ambitious Republican’s agenda suffered a setback Thursday when a judge ruled his “Stop WOKE” Act — which restricts discussions around race in businesses and schools — was unconstitutional, according to The Associated Press.
Earlier this week, Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren sued the governor, alleging he was removed from his job in retaliation for his stance on abortion and transgender rights, AP reported.
DeSantis has been floated as a likely 2024 presidential contender. He’s running for reelection in Florida’s gubernatorial race in November.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.