On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that strengthens election security by establishing a first-of-its-kind elections police force, requiring an annual review of voter rolls and bolstering ID requirements.
“Twenty years ago, nobody thought Florida was a prime example of how to conduct elections, but we have become a national leader by running the most secure elections in the country,” said DeSantis said in a statement. “We need to do more to ensure our elections remain secure. We have ended ballot harvesting, stopped drop boxes and the mass mailing of ballots, and banned Zuckerbucks, and this bill will give us more resources to make sure bad actors are held accountable.”
The law establishes the Office of Election Crimes and Security, a new State Department agency that will have a staff of 25. The move comes after DeSantis asked lawmakers for around $6 million to fund a 52-person police force to “investigate, detect, apprehend, and arrest anyone for an alleged violation” of election laws.
“Governor DeSantis has made elections integrity a top priority from the very beginning of his administration, taking steps to ensure we invested in our elections systems, strengthened our cyber defenses, modernized equipment, updated voter rolls, and improved transparency, and we’ve seen results,” Florida Secretary of State, Laurel M. Lee, said in a statement. “As Florida’s Chief Elections Official, I share Governor DeSantis’ strong commitment to elections integrity. We want to ensure that every Floridian can have confidence that in Florida, we do elections right.”
The law also makes “ballot harvesting” — the act of gathering ballots and depositing them at an elections office or drop box — a felony, punishable with five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years of probation.
Additionally, the law compels elections supervisors to conduct voter list maintenance each year in an effort to “combat the possibility of fraudulent voting,” and the State Department is required to recommend steps to strengthen ID requirements for mail-in ballots. The department must “submit a report on the plan and draft legislation for any statutory changes needed to implement the plan by February 1, 2023.”
“Florida leads the nation in free and fair elections because Governor DeSantis and the Legislature have taken a proactive approach to address any issues,” said a statement from Senate President Wilton Simpson. “Voter confidence in the integrity of our elections is essential to maintaining a democratic form of government, and I am grateful to Governor DeSantis for making election integrity in this state a focus of his administration. When people and organizations interfere with Florida elections, there are consequences.”