Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on April 25 signed a bill creating a new stand-alone election police force to probe election crimes, including voter fraud.
DeSantis signed Senate Bill 524, Election Administration, that will establish an “Office of Election Crimes and Security” in the Florida Department of State with a staff of 15 to conduct preliminary investigations of election fraud.
The measure makes Florida one of the first states in the United States to have a unit focused on election fraud and marks the second major overhaul of election laws in Florida since the 2020 election.
The legislation also authorizes the use of up to 10 law enforcement officers to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate election crimes.
“We just want to make sure whatever laws are on the books that those laws are enforced,” DeSantis said at the bill signing event.
Democrats opposed the creation of the police unit, saying that it was unnecessary.
“This new election crime task force has been developed to solve a problem that does not exist,” Democratic Representative Yvonne Hayes Hinson said in a statement, adding that the measure “will put up additional barriers to voting and targets communities of color.”
Representative Daniel Perez, the top sponsor of the measure, said during legislative debate that the combined program will cost $3.7 million.
Additionally, the measure increases penalties for violating Florida election laws, including an increase in fine from $1,000 to $50,000 on organizations that violate voter registration laws.
The measure also makes it a felony to collect and submit more than two vote-by-mail ballots on behalf of the voters.
Furthermore, the measure requires supervisors of elections to annually conduct a voter list maintenance to prevent voter fraud.
The measure also changes the name of drop boxes to “secure ballot intake stations.”
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