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TALLAHASSEE, FL – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill that created an election police force – one of the first of its kind in the nation – whose duties will include cracking down on voter fraud in the Sunshine State.
DeSantis, a Republican, had proposed the special unit in response to pressure from some members of the GOP to conduct an audit of the 2020 presidential election in Florida, despite the fact that former President Donald Trump had easily won the state.
“I don’t think there’s any other place in the country that you should have more confidence that your vote counts than in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said at a news conference Monday before signing the bill into law.
The law will see the creation of an “Office of Election Crimes and Security” in the Department of State, in addition to recruiting investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The budget for the Office of Election Crimes and Security is currently set at $2.6 million, which will go towards paying the salaries of 26 positions spread out amongst the two agencies.
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In addition, other parts of the bill have made “ballot harvesting” – the gathering and submitting of completed absentee or mail-in voter ballots by third-party individuals – a felony; mandated annual screening of voter rolls to check for voters who may have moved or who are no longer eligible to vote; and changed the name of drop boxes to “secure ballot intake stations.”
“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 Governor Ron DeSantis. “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.”
A previous version of the bill would have also increased identification requirements on mail-in ballots starting in 2024, but legislators dropped that provision after they were warned by election officials that the way it was slated to be introduced could lead to confusion among voters. Instead, a study will be conducted to see the best way to implement new mail-in ballot requirements in the future.