One of the voters charged, Jamie Wells, told investigators that the UPS Store was her “home base.” She said she lived in a mobile home and split time between a nearby campground and Louisiana. Ms. Wells did not respond to phone or email messages. If convicted, she stands to serve up to three and a half years in prison — though she would most likely receive a much shorter sentence.
In La Crosse County, Wis., District Attorney Tim Gruenke, a Democrat, received a similar referral: 23 people registered to vote with addresses from a local UPS Store, and 16 of them voted in 2020. But Mr. Gruenke said he had concluded that there was no attempt at fraud. Instead of felony charges, the local clerk sent the voters a letter giving them 30 days to change their registrations to an address where they lived.
“It didn’t seem to me there was any attempt to defraud,” Mr. Gruenke said. “It would be a felony charge, and I thought that would be too heavy for what amounted to a typo or clerical error.”
Mr. Toney linked his decision to his views about the 2020 election in Wisconsin, which the Democratic candidate, Joseph R. Biden Jr., won by more than 20,682 votes out of 3.3 million cast.
While he had never challenged Mr. Biden’s win, he said he believed that “there is no dispute that Wisconsin election laws weren’t followed and fraud occurred.”
“I support identifying any fraud or election laws not followed to ensure it never happens again, because elections are the cornerstone of our democracy,” Mr. Toney said.
(Ms. Wells, one of the voters Mr. Toney has charged, also said she believed something was amiss in the 2020 election. “They took it away from Trump,” she told investigators.)
The unit, called the Office of Election Crimes and Security, takes on work already done by the secretary of state’s office, but reports directly to the governor.
Will these new laws swing elections? Maybe. Maybe not. Some laws will make voting more difficult for certain groups, cause confusion or create longer wait times at polling places. But the new restrictions could backfire on Republicans, especially in rural areas that once preferred to vote by mail.
Mr. DeSantis isn’t alone. In Arizona, State Senator Wendy Rodgers, a Republican who is trying to overturn the 2020 election, is sponsoring a bill that would establish an “election bureau” to investigate fraud with sweeping authority, including the ability to impound election equipment and records.
In Georgia, Republicans in the House passed a voting bill on Tuesday that would, among other changes, expand the authority of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to identify and investigate election violations, including the ability to conduct election audits of any subpoenaed documents.
But Florida’s legislation would be the first in the nation restricting how election officials can defend themselves in court. The bill bars them from accepting legal defense provided or funded by a nongovernmental agency.