The Duval County Courthouse and the Jacksonville State Attorney’s Office. [Waters Justin]

State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s office said that Jacksonville sheriff’s candidate T.K. Waters and his wife, who is an employee of the State Attorney’s Office, did not violate voter registration laws when they continued voting in a precinct where they didn’t live.

Waters, who was endorsed by Nelson and Gov. Ron DeSantis, used to live in Nocatee with his wife. Four years ago, he said, they moved out of their home. At that time, in 2018, Waters and his wife changed their registration to a nearby house in the neighborhood.

Since then, Waters said, he has rented homes elsewhere, and he said he currently lives in Northside. Regardless, Waters and his wife have continued voting in elections at their old precinct.

Waters said he “inadvertently kept my voter registration at a previous address.”

Registering to vote somewhere other than your residential address is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

But Nelson’s office said that Waters and his wife are in the clear because they never intended to make the rental properties a “permanent address.”

“Florida jurisprudence defines legal residency as a ‘place where a person has fixed an abode with the present intention of making it his or her permanent home,'” the office said in a statement. “Waters’ current voter registration remains associated with his last ‘legal residence’ in Duval County.”

The office didn’t answer a question about why they considered a neighbor’s house to be a “last legal residence” but didn’t consider subsequent rentals to fit the bill.

“Since moving from his last ‘legal residence,’ Waters has rented a series of temporary residences in Duval County while awaiting the completion of his new home, also located in Duval County,” the statement continued. “Waters has not yet established a new ‘legal residence’ — as he has not yet lived in a residence intended to become his permanent home — and hence, there is a reasonable basis to support that Waters was not required to change his address with the Supervisor of Elections. More importantly, we have not been presented with, nor found any evidence of voter fraud.”

In past cases, Nelson has been quick to recuse herself when she may have faced allegations of being too close to subjects of investigations, including cases involving former Public Defender Matt Shirk and a local activist who Nelson had met with previously.

This case, however, involves T.K. Waters and his wife, Robin, who works as an investigator in Nelson’s office. The office has not yet answered a question about why Nelson didn’t recuse herself.

While Waters also claimed any violation would have been inadvertent, that defense has not stopped police elsewhere from arresting voters.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has made prosecuting potential voter fraud a primary focus of his administration, announcing 17 arrests Thursday, even while the governor admitted voter fraud was not believed to be widespread in Florida. Experts said many of those violations that led to arrests appeared to be inadvertent.

Former Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland, who now serves as the county’s property appraiser, said he doesn’t understand Nelson’s office’s reasoning and questioned whether Nelson actually read the law.

“I looked all over, and I couldn’t find anything to justify what she said,” he said. “Someone needs to ask the [state] Division of Elections.”

Without clarification, he said, it leaves voters wondering if there’s a conflict of interest.

The idea that someone wouldn’t need to change their address just because they’re living in rentals goes against the law and common sense, Holland said. Holland also said that the current Duval elections supervisor, Mike Hogan, should ask for the Department of State to look into this.

Hogan has said he lacks any investigative powers.

Andrew Pantazi edits and reports for The Tributary. He previously worked as a reporter at The Florida Times-Union where he helped organize the newsroom's union with the NewsGuild-CWA. He and his wife,...