Florida’s governor, DeSantis, is signing a bill to establish an election police unit

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, on February 24, 2022.

Octavio Jones | Reuters

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill to create a police force dedicated to prosecuting voter fraud and other election crimes that embraces a top Republican priority following former President Donald Trump’s false claims that his re-election was stolen.

DeSantis, who is running for re-election and is considered a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2024, put the voting legislation in focus this year and pushed the Republican-controlled legislature to set up the police unit in a speech in which he referred to unspecified cases of voter fraud, which are become popular talking points in his party.

Election fraud is rare, typically occurs in isolated cases and is generally detected. An Associated Press poll of the 2020 presidential election found fewer than 475 potential cases of voter fraud out of 25.5 million ballots cast in the six states where Trump and his allies denied his loss to President Joe Biden.

Republicans nationwide have stressed the need to restore public confidence in elections and have passed several voting laws in the past two years aimed at placing new rules around postal and early voting methods that were popular in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic disrupted personal voting .

Florida’s new law, which critics have deemed politically motivated and unnecessary, comes after DeSantis praised the state’s election in 2020 as smooth, but later suggested more rules were needed.

The law establishes an office for election crimes and security under the Florida State Department to investigate allegations of fraud and conduct preliminary investigations. DeSantis is required to appoint a group of special officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who will be tasked with prosecuting violations of election law.

Existing state law allowed the governor to appoint officials to investigate violations of election law, but did not require him to do so.

The law also sharpens the penalties for collecting completed ballots by a third party, often referred to as ballot harvesting, for a crime. It raises fines for certain violations of the Election Act and requires election leaders to perform electoral roll maintenance on a more frequent basis.

The Democrats, the minority party in the state legislature, have criticized the bill as a way for DeSantis to appeal to Republican voters who believe the 2020 election results were fraudulent while flirting with his own presidential election.

Late last month, a federal judge overturned parts of a comprehensive electoral law passed last year in a blistering ruling that the state’s Republican-dominated government is oppressing black voters, and ordered that attempts to write similar new laws in it the next decade must have the approval of the court.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker overturned a provision in last year’s law that limits when people could use a drop box to cast their ballot, along with a section banning anyone from engaging with people waiting to vote. He also blocked a section that placed new rules for groups registering voters, including one that requires people working to register voters to submit their names and permanent addresses to the state.

The DeSantis administration is working to reverse Walker’s decision.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *