TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — There has been some backlash to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push to tighten election security.
Just months after signing what he called the strongest election security law in the country, Gov. DeSantis announced the second round of changes on Wednesday.
“It’s going to make Florida way number one by a long shot anywhere in the county,” he said.
The governor is calling on lawmakers to create a police force within the Department of State to investigate election crimes, require timelines to clean voter rolls, prohibit “unsecure, haphazard” drop box locations and increase the penalty for violating restrictions on collecting mail-in ballots.
Gov. DeSantis wants to make so-called “ballot harvesting” a third-degree felony.
“If someone is ballot-harvesting, you report it to these people and this is their sole job,” Gov. DeSantis explained. “We’ll have sworn law enforcement officers as part of this, we’ll have investigators.”
Gov. DeSantis says local law enforcement may not have the time or expertise to prosecute election fraud.
According to a report from Politico, the new police force would cost nearly $6 million in the first year with more than 50 employees based in six offices.
“It’s perpetuating the idea that there are problems with our elections when there really aren’t,” Brad Ashwell said.
Ashwell is the Florida director of a non-partisan group called All Voting is Local. He believes lawmakers should instead focus on expanding early voting and increasing dropbox accessibility.
“We don’t know how this new law enforcement office is going to work,” he said. “Let’s say they find a problem and it bumps someone into a different status and they don’t realize it until they’re at the polls, it could lead to a lot of ‘gotcha’ scenarios, so I think the devil is in the details.”
All of this is happening as Gov. DeSantis is facing mounting pressure to do an audit of the 2020 election. So far, he’s resisted those calls.
These changes are expected to come up at the legislative session in January.