Breaking News
More () »

DeSantis signs bill creating police force tasked with investigating elections crimes

According to election officials, voter fraud is rare and generally detected.

SPRING HILL, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill into law that creates a police force to prosecute election-related crimes.

At Rookies Sports Bar & Grill in Spring Hill, the governor put pen to paper on the measure (SB 524) he's been a supporter of since last year. While speaking in West Palm Beach back in November 2021, the governor called for an election police unit after referencing unspecified cases of fraud. 

Such allegations have become popular in parts of the GOP that have embraced former President Donald Trump’s false claims that his reelection was stolen due to widespread fraud. 

Voter fraud is rare and generally detected. An Associated Press investigation of every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by Trump — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — found fewer than 475 cases out of 25.5 million ballots cast. There is also consensus among election officials and experts that there was no fraud that could have impacted results in the last presidential election. 

DeSantis on Monday took the time to praise Florida's performance on election night but said that there was still "a lot that needs to be addressed." 

"We're not going to just sit there and say, 'Oh, yeah. We've got everything figured out.' Because, there was more to do in the state of Florida to make sure we have transparent, fair and elections with integrity," DeSantis said.

The bill creates an Office of Election Crimes and Security under the Florida Department of State that would review fraud allegations and conduct preliminary investigations. DeSantis is required to appoint a group of special officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who would be tasked with pursuing the election law violations.

State law currently allows the governor to appoint officers to investigate violations of election law but does not require him to do so.

The proposal also would increase penalties for the collection of completed ballots by a third party, often referred to as ballot harvesting, to a felony. It would raise fines for certain election law violations and election supervisors would need to more frequently conduct maintenance of their voter lists, under the measure. 

Critics of the measure have argued that the bill is an attempt by DeSantis to appease Republicans who believe the 2020 Election results were fraudulent and said it is unnecessary, noting that local prosecutors can handle fraud cases.

In a statement, Agricultural Commissioner and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried called the bill an act of voter suppression.

"Governor DeSantis and Republicans in the Florida Legislature are infringing on our fundamental right to vote," Fried said in the statement, in part. 

"This bill creates unnecessary and deliberate barriers to voting. It perpetuates the lie that our elections are not secure. In fact, the few instances of voter fraud we have seen recently have been perpetrated by Republicans and the Republican Party of Florida. Maybe Governor DeSantis’ new task force should start there.”

Trump's false claims of fraud have led to a wave of voting restrictions in Republican-controlled states.

Last year, DeSantis signed a bill that put new rules on ballot drop boxes and required a driver’s license number, state ID number or last four digits of a Social Security number to request a mail ballot, among other things. That law is the subject of a federal trial after a challenge from voting rights groups.

Before You Leave, Check This Out