Election fraud charges against Ervin dropped

Marsha Ervin (left) looks on while attorney Mutaqee Akbar appealed for charges against her to be dropped.
Photo courtesy Ben Crump Law
Marsha Ervin

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Saying that while Marsha Ervin might have voted illegally, State Attorney Jack Campbell decided he had to drop voter fraud charges against the 69-year-old Tallahassee woman.

Ervin’s arrest in the wee hours of Sept. 29 sparked outrage among civil rights activists and her story made national headlines. About a week before Campbell announced his decision, details of Ervin’s case as an ex-felon was made public at a press conference.

Conversations with Ervin’s probation officer and Leon County Supervisor of Election Mark Earley provided the evidence he needed to dismiss the charges, Campbell said.

“I think it’s important that it was,” Campbell told the Capital Outlook. “One, it’s the right thing. Any fraud case they have to show some kind of intent and every indication points to there was no intention to commit fraud.”

Campbell’s decision brought immediate reaction from the NAACP in a news release. The civil rights organization applauded Campbell’s decision and at the same time called on the  state to put in place procedures that would let former felons know if they’re eligible to vote.

The NCAA wants the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections to “establish a new checkbox for ex-felons seeking voter registration, enabling additional verification of eligibility without the risk of arrest in case of errors.”

Having such a process will help “to prevent unintentional violations of voting regulations and ensure that eligible individuals have the opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” the NAACP wrote in its news release.

The lack of a database and the voter intimidation were two of the concerns raised during the press conference that was held at Leon County Courthouse.

However, Campbell said “I don’t want anybody to be scared or concerned on this. If they have a question call us or the supervisor of election.”

The call for a data base that would help clarify voter eligibility for former felon have been ongoing since legislation was passed to tighten requirements. Those changes came after a 2018 constitutional amendment restored voting rights for more than 1 million ex-felon. However, it excluded those convicted of murder or felony sex crimes.

Ervin didn’t commit either of those crimes. She was charged with one count of submitting false voter registration information and two counts of voting as an ineligible elector. The charges are third-degree felonies. 

Ervin was released from prison in 2018 after being convicted of aggravated neglect of an elderly person two years earlier. She is on probation, which ends next month.

During the press conference held earlier this month in Ervin’s defense, attorneys Ben Crump and Mutaqee Akbar, president of the local NAACP, announced they would seek dismissal of the charges.

“I think it’s important that it was,” Akbar said of Campbell’s decision. “One, it’s the right thing. Any fraud case they have to show some kind of intent and every indication points to there was no intention to commit fraud.”

Ervin’s arrest was one of more than 24 across the state since the establishment of the Office of Election Crimes and Security. That office was set up last year as part of voting reform laws pushed by a Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

Like Ervin’s, several of the cases brought by the Office of Election Crimes and Security have been dismissed. Campbell said evidence proved that Ervin received contradicting information about her eligibility to vote.

“This office cannot proceed with a fraud prosecution with such a lack of evidence to establish intent,” Campbell wrote to the Court of the Second Judicial Circuit in his decision to drop the charges.

He later told the Outlook, “You give me new facts, I will change my opinion every time. That’s the end of the Ervin case. I don’t expect it to come back.”

Reminded that DeSantis has suspended State Attorneys General Monique Worrell and Andrew Warren for various reasons, Campbell said he also is concerned about repercussion from the governor over the Ervin case.

“I don’t want anything bad to happen to me or my family,” Campbell said, adding “I will do what I think is right no matter the consequences.”

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