Florida House passes bill creating election police force
The bill would establish an Election Crimes and Security Bureau within the State Department with a staff of 15 to conduct preliminary investigations into voter fraud. Additionally, the measure directs DeSantis to appoint up to 10 law enforcement officers to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate election crimes.
The combined effort would have a budget of about $3.7 million, said state Rep. Daniel Perez, the Republican lawmaker guiding the bill through the House. DeSantis, who is up for re-election this year and is considering a 2024 presidential bid, originally proposed a 52-member force with a budget of $5.7 million.
Florida would become one of the first states to have a unit focused on voter fraud.
Voter fraud is extremely rare, and Democrats and Republicans in the state have previously described the 2020 election as going smoothly. DeSantis said last year that Florida passed its automatic post-election audits with “high flying.”
Perez said the new Election Crimes Investigation Unit would serve as an “additional resource” to local election supervisors to ensure that “there are absolutely no cases slipping through the cracks.”
“The more resources we have to attack the wrong people, the wrong actors who commit fraud, the better it is for the state of Florida,” Perez said during a debate Tuesday night. “More the merrier, the merrier.”
The legislation that passed the Florida House on Wednesday marks the second election overhaul in two years to tighten election laws in the state – as supporters of former President Donald Trump call for new reviews of the 2020 election.
Trump won the state by a comfortable margin, but he spread baseless claims that voter fraud contributed to his loss in other battleground states.
The bill passed Wednesday would make it a crime to collect and submit more than two mail-in ballots on behalf of other voters. It is currently a crime to do so. It also increases the fine from $1,000 to $50,000 for organizations that violate election registration laws.
Critics said it was overkill.
“We’re going to convict people of a crime because they helped three instead of two elderly neighbors?” said Democratic State Rep. Joseph Geller, as he opposed the bill Wednesday night.
The new election security force and increased penalties could “deter people from participating in the democratic process,” said Daniel Griffith, political director of Secure Democracy USA, a nonprofit that works to improve democracy. access to the ballot.
Griffith said there appear to be few safeguards over the activity of the new Election Investigation Unit. “We don’t know exactly what they are investigating: are they investigating election officials? do they survey voters?
Florida House Democrats raised concerns during this week’s debate that increased penalties could entrap voter registration groups for making mistakes, such as misplacing a voter’s registration card. elector, and cool their activity in the State.
Perez replied, “If the third-party electoral organization is not committing fraud, they will never have to worry about paying fines or fees.”
Cecile Scoon, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, called the new $50,000 fine a “direct threat” to her organization. “When you pair the increased fines with the new election investigators, it doesn’t make you feel warm or comfortable,” she told CNN.
The bill also requires election supervisors to update voter lists more frequently and expands the ban on private funding of election administration to include “the cost of any litigation.”