- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation creating an election police unit.
- He said local election supervisors may not be equipped to investigate voter fraud claims.
- The election law also ups penalties for ballot harvesting and violating voter registration laws.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Monday establishing a new law enforcement unit aimed at investigating voter fraud and election crimes.
The move comes as part of a nationwide GOP effort to police federal and state elections in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s false and debunked claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
“I don’t think there is any other place in the country where you should have more confidence that your vote counts than in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said at a press conference.
The Florida governor said local election supervisors and law enforcement officers may not have the expertise and knowledge to thoroughly investigate election fraud. Out of 262 voter fraud complaints received by the Florida Department of State, only 75 cases were referred to authorities. There are more than 14 million voters registered in the state.
“Some of them may not care as much about the election stuff,” he said. “I think it’s been mixed at how those reactions are going to be. So we just want to make sure whatever laws are on the books, that those laws are enforced.”
On top of creating a new election police unit, the bill signed into law on Monday also elevated the penalties for violating election laws in the state, making it a felony – rather than a misdemeanor – to send more than two mail-in ballots for other voters, according to CNN. The new election legislation also increased the fine for violating voter registration laws from $1,000 to $50,000.
State Rep. Tracie Davis condemned the election law on Monday, striking it down as nothing more than a bid from DeSantis to appeal to Trump voters who believe the 2020 election was stolen. DeSantis has been floated as a GOP candidate for the 2024 presidential race.
“DeSantis’ so-called election reform legislation is a continued attack by the Republican Party to generate public distrust in the integrity of our elections,” Davis told the Associated Press. “The bill is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer funds.”
The move comes after DeSantis proposed a new redistricting plan in the state, pushing a congressional map that would reduce the number of predominantly Black districts.
On March 28, DeSantis vetoed a version of the congressional map approved by state legislators that would have added two Republican seats and subtracted one from the Democrats, according to The New York Times. Last week, the Florida Senate passed DeSantis’ congressional map during a special session that would instead create 20 likely Republican seats and leave eight for Democrats, The Times reported.
DeSantis claimed that the new congressional map put out by his office would be “race-neutral.”
“I mean, we are not going to have a 200-mile gerrymander that divvies up people based on the color of their skin,” DeSantis said, citing a CNN report. “That is wrong. That is not the way we’ve governed in the state of Florida.”