Florida lawmakers back the creation of an election crimes investigative office
Florida lawmakers have sent to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis legislation that would create a dedicated investigative unit for alleged election crimes, part of a broader bill that would, for the second year in a row, enact new voting restrictions in the state.
DeSantis, an ally of former President Donald Trump and a potential 2024 presidential contender himself, called for the formation of an election police force in a speech last year.
The measure, which the GOP-led House passed along party lines Wednesday evening, would create an Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State to probe "allegations of election law violations or election irregularities."
Election fraud is exceedingly rare, and DeSantis had praised Florida's election administration in the wake of the 2020 election.
Yet for the second straight year he's pursued tightening the state's election code. In 2021, during a Fox News appearance, he signed legislation that added new restrictions to the state's ballot drop boxes and vote-by-mail system.
The Florida law was among a raft of GOP-led measures enacted in the wake of Trump's baseless claims about the 2020 election being rigged against him.
DeSantis is expected to sign the new legislation. The state Senate OK'd it last week.
Democrats lined up to oppose the bill.
"The only thing I can think is we are motivated by the 'Big Lie,' " state Sen. Lori Berman said, according to Florida Politics, referencing Trump's election lies. "We know voter fraud is extremely rare. I just don't understand why we are going to be taking our taxpayer money and creating this quote 'police force.' "
But many Republicans cited the concerns of their voters.
"Our job is to make sure our elections are as secure as possible, and you want to know why? Our constituents are demanding it," said state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The legislation would also require more frequent updates of voter rolls and increase penalties for various election offenses. And it would ban ranked-choice voting.
A provision that would have added new ID requirements to mail voting was scrapped, after election supervisors in the state came out against it.
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