Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) is under investigation for allegedly violating a state ban on electioneering inside a polling station.
Castor entered the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library in Tampa on Monday Oct. 24, according to a report filed by a clerk in the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office.
According to Florida law, candidates and campaign workers are prohibited from “soliciting voters inside the polling place or within 150 feet of a secure ballot intake station or the entrance to any polling place, a polling room where the polling place is also a polling room, an early voting site, or an office of the supervisor,” the Daily Caller reported.
Any violations of those prohibitions are considered voter intimidation, a third-degree felony.
According to the clerk, Castor entered the library through the back exit door, and a poll worker asked her if she was there to vote. Castor replied that she was not, and said she was just walking through. The congresswoman was then approached by another poll worker who asked her if she was there to vote, and she again said no. That poll worker asked the congresswoman who she was, and she replied, “Kathy Castor.”
The poll worker said she told Castor that she was not allowed in the polling room, and would accompany her out.
The eight-term congresswoman told her that “she was here to do some filming and that the film crew was right in front of us as we exited [through] our entrance door,” according to the report.
The poll worker informed the congresswoman that she was inside the 150 ft. zone and that she and the film crew would have to leave.
“She replied okay and went off with them,” the report stated.
Castor is running against Republican James Judge, a local business owner, in a district that she won by 20 points in 2020.
In a statement from Castor’s office, a spokesperson said the congresswoman had “encouraged the press and voters to join her at the Jan Platt Library to encourage voters to take advantage of the convenience of voting early.” Floridians began voting on Oct. 24.
Castor insisted that “all campaigning” was done “outside the designated exclusion zone,” and that she was not wearing campaign stickers, holding campaign signs, or handing out campaign literature while she was inside the exclusion zone. Castor also said that she did not talk to voters, and exited as soon as she realized she didn’t “have what she needed at the time to vote.”
Many states have laws prohibiting electioneering near polling stations. The practice, commonly known as line-warming, occasionally involves passing out campaign-branded gifts and snacks. Democrats criticized the state of Georgia’s new ban on electioneering at length, claiming that the prohibition was part of “Jim Crow 2.0,” despite the fact that blue states like New York and Delaware also outlaw line-warming.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly emphasized election integrity issues. He supported legislation in 2021 prohibiting ballot-harvesting and private funding of election offices. Florida’s Office of Election Crimes and Security, created by DeSantis, charged 20 people with election fraud in August. At least one of the defendants has had his charges dismissed.
Judge held a news conference outside the library Castor is accused of illegally entering. He told reporters that he wasn’t sure why Castor would do this. “She’s been in Congress since 2006. She should know better than this,” said Judge. “She’s also an attorney.”
He noted that the congresswoman’s “self-described” reason for being there was to “encourage people to vote.”
“I think that a crime may have occurred,” he said.
During an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Thursday evening, Judge noted that the local media in Tampa ignored this major news story until today.
“Kathy Castor actually walked into a polling precinct, broke the law, and tried to coerce voters there,” he told Carlson.
“The Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office is investigating, so there’s actually a criminal investigation of my opponent right now” Judge said.
“That’s a felony,” Carlson exclaimed. “So she’s being investigated by the same police she voted to defund,” he added. “Maybe the president will point that out because he’s a Democracy defender,” the host quipped.