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Ron DeSantis Fulfills Republican Fever Dream, Creates New Force to Police Elections


Playing into the GOP push to question the legitimacy of elections following Donald Trump’s loss in 2020, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law a bill creating a special police force tasked with investigating voter-fraud cases and enforcing other election laws. “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 during the signing ceremony Monday at a Tampa Bay–area sports bar. 

DeSantis, who is up for reelection this year and is considered a favorite among 2024 GOP hopefuls, said the new Office of Election Crimes and Security will serve to uphold existing laws. “Some [people] may not care as much about the election stuff. I think it’s been mixed at how those reactions are going to be,” he said. “We just want to make sure whatever laws are on the books, that those laws are enforced.”

DeSantis has faced pressure from conservatives to carry out a “forensic audit” of the 2020 election. By making Florida the first state to install an election-crimes task force, he appears to be making overtures to Republicans who have bought into Trump’s “stolen election” conspiracy theories. 

Cases of voter fraud in the U.S. are extraordinarily rare. Of the more than 11 million ballots cast by Florida voters in the 2020 election, only 75 election-fraud complaints were referred to law enforcement or prosecutors, according to the Florida Secretary of State’s office. DeSantis even lauded Florida’s handling of the last presidential election, saying in November 2020: “As you see chaos unfolding in some of these other battleground states…people are actually looking at Florida and asking the question: ‘Why can’t these states be more like Florida?’” Those comments conveniently came after Florida officials announced a comfortable Trump victory in the state.

Trump, and others in the party, continue to push their stolen-election narrative. The new Florida bill signed into law, Senate Bill 524, creates the Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State, which will receive funding for 25 investigators. It also increases criminal penalties for “ballot harvesting,” i.e. the act of a third party gathering up mail-in votes and delivering them to a ballot box. The bill also bans statewide ranked-choice voting, including in cities and counties.

Critics of the law have condemned it as a politically motivated stunt. “DeSantis’s so-called election reform legislation is a continued attack by the Republican Party to generate public distrust in the integrity of our elections,” said Democratic state representative Tracie Davis on Monday. “The bill is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer funds.”

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