SPRING HILL, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill to create a police force dedicated to pursuing voter fraud and other election crimes at a sports bar in Spring Hill Monday afternoon.
The governor said the legislation would limit ballot harvesting, ban rank-choice voting, and create a state law enforcement officials to ensure election integrity.
In addition, the bill will make ballot harvesting a third-degree felony in the state of Florida.
“When you absentee ballot, we need to make sure that is a secret private process… We are taking a very strong stance on ballot harvesting, I think it’s justified, and I think people can have confidence that someone is voting absentee they actually got the ballot, they actually sent it in,” DeSantis said.
The law also changes voter registration maintenance from two year processes to annual, and require election supervisors to conduct change-of-address audits in odd-numbered years, to identify changes of address for voters where mail is registered “return-if-undeliverable” or if the voter has not participated in an election in three years or more, without updating their registrations.
The law creates an Office of Election Crimes and Security under the Florida Department of State to review fraud allegations and conduct preliminary investigations. DeSantis is required to appoint a group of special officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who would be tasked with pursuing the election law violations.
An Associated Press investigation of the 2020 presidential election found fewer than 475 potential cases of voter fraud out of 25.5 million ballots cast in the six states where Trump and his allies disputed his loss to President Joe Biden.
Last month, a United States District Court ruled against most of the legal provisions created in Florida’s 2021 voting law.
Nikki Fried, the state’s agriculture commissioner who is running as a Democrat seeking to challenge DeSantis in November’s gubernatorial race responded on Twitter following the bill’s signing calling the governor’s election police “political theater at best, and a deliberate barrier to voting + a huge waste of millions of taxpayer dollars at worst.”