Court Battles

Florida lawmakers pass first-of-its-kind elections police force

Florida Sen. Dennis Baxley, right, sponsor of a bill, dubbed by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, speaks
Associated Press/Wilfredo Lee

Florida lawmakers on Wednesday passed a new GOP-backed voting bill that would create a first-of-its-kind office dedicated to policing election fraud and related crimes, despite Florida’s successful administration of the 2020 election and the infrequency of election-related offenses.

The bill, S.B. 524, cleared the Republican-controlled Florida House Wednesday night after the state Senate approved it last week, with both votes falling largely along party lines. The measure, which represents a watered-down version of what Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) had initially requested, now heads to his desk for signature.

The bill would create an Office of Election Crimes and Security that falls under the authority of Florida’s secretary of state, a position that is appointed directly by the governor. The office would comprise a 25-member staff, including 10 law enforcement officers, to investigate allegations of election-related crime.

DeSantis has touted Florida’s administration of the 2020 election, in which former President Trump bested President Joe Biden by more than 3 points. And unlike several other GOP governors in battleground states, DeSantis opposed a statewide review of the results, saying Florida “passed with flying colors.”

The new Florida elections bill is just one in a series of GOP-backed voting crackdowns that have moved through state legislatures following the 2020 election, which Trump has falsely claimed was stolen from him. Trump’s supporters claim such measures, like Florida’s S.B. 90, which was signed into law last year, are vital for protecting election integrity.

Critics say that tighter voting restrictions are designed to suppress likely Democratic voters and even lay the groundwork for the subversion of future elections by Republican officials and legislatures.

In addition to establishing the election police force, the latest voting measure also creates new election-related restrictions and stiffens existing penalties.

The bill would make it a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, to collect and deliver more than two mail ballots on behalf of other voters. It also raises the amount of fines that can be assessed to third-party voter registration organizations that run afoul of state election law from $1,000 to $50,000.

Tags Donald Trump Florida Joe Biden Ron DeSantis US elections Voting voting law

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