Democracy is at risk in Florida after its GOP-dominated legislature sent a bill creating a new “election police” to its Republican governor’s desk.
The 2020 election was possibly the smoothest in Florida’s recent history. Those are not my words. They were uttered by Governor Ron DeSantis, who said the elections were the “smoothest and most successful election of any state” in the 2020 presidential contest.
Why are Florida Republican lawmakers wasting tax dollars to set up a bureaucratic agency meant to tackle a problem that, according to their own past statements, doesn’t exist in Florida? It’s because they are following in the footsteps of Donald Trump and his unhinged conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 election being stolen from him.
Despite voter fraud being extremely rare and
DeSantis’ their new Trump’s praise of Florida’s election administration, Republicans in the legislature have approved legislation that would create a dedicated election police investigative unit for alleged election crimes along with enacting new voting restrictions in the state.
Now, the bill is awaiting DeSantis’s signature and would create an Office of Election Crimes and Security to probe “allegations of election law violations or election irregularities’, require more frequent updates of voter rolls, and increase penalties for various election offenses. It also prohibits ranked-choice voting.
Ron DeSantis has a track record of voter suppression. In 2021, he infamously signed legislation that restricted Florida’s drop boxes and vote-by-mail system during a campaign-style appearance that was exclusively covered by Fox News.
What’s more concerning is that we now have an agency in charge of monitoring our elections created by a partisan governor who routinely disrespects democratic norms. After all, DeSantis stood with Trump and his false claims of voter fraud. He even supported the will of the voters be overturned by calling on Michigan and Pennsylvania lawmakers to negate their state’s popular votes and select “faithless electors” to cast votes for Trump in the Electoral College.
State agencies have seemingly been weaponized against political opponents during DeSantis’ tenure, something that I have personal experience with.
Can we count on Ron DeSantis’ election police to investigate the few instances of voter fraud cases in Florida that are overwhelmingly committed by Republicans?
My instincts are that no, this agency will be partisan and serve the political wishes of DeSantis, similar to how he has politicized the Florida Department of Health.
While voter fraud cases are so rare that experts consider them completely irrelevant to impact election results, in Florida, we have had a few instances, and they have practically all been committed by Republicans.
“The Villages sees a voter-fraud outbreak — with a MAGA twist,” read a Washington Post headline earlier this year, after a fourth resident of a largely conservative retiree community in Central Florida was arrested for allegedly voting more than once in the 2020 election. In December of 2021, three others were arrested for allegedly committing the same crimes, and in each case, the person is accused of casting ballots from Florida but also other states where they had residences, including Michigan, New York, and Connecticut. Amazingly, it was an anonymous email to Florida’s Secretary of State that led to the arrests.
There is no evidence of the individuals committing voter fraud in The Villages being part of a coordinated scheme, but a more disturbing development points to the possibility of coordinated action by GOP-aligned entities in Florida to commit election crimes.
No election police force was required to catch these GOP crooks.
Recently, Miami’s ABC affiliate uncovered a new scheme where public housing residents in Miami-Dade county have had their voter registration unwittingly changed from Democrat to Republican after interacting with GOP canvassers. The story broke after an 84-year-old woman discovered the change when receiving her voter registration card in the mail, prompting the media to investigate and uncover dozens of more cases. (video embedded below)
Florida State Senator Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) also said she has heard from voters across multiple counties of this happening and is calling for an investigation by authorities. She’s a gubernatorial candidate in Florida’s Democratic primary.
Let us not forget that Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is newly embroiled in a serious voting fraud scheme to register himself at a trailer home in western North Carolina to vote long after his family sold out their home and moved to Alexandria, Virginia.
Moving away from voting issues, political crime in Florida is rampant and prosecutions are few and far between. Again, it’s mostly Republicans perpetrating the crimes.
A former GOP state Senator is facing a criminal trial for using a tsunami of dark money powered by the state’s largest public utility company to run what locals call a “plantidate” who swung a very close race in Miami.
A former GOP Congressman who was Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) best friend got caught but avoided punishment in a federal “plantidate” scheme in a Democratic primary, also took in $15 million from the Venezuelan government. Nobody knows where that money went.
I repeat; voter fraud is extremely rare regardless of the cases I have detailed. Most importantly, there are already laws addressing those crimes.
There was no need for this election police bill, or for the new agency it will create.
It serves as red meat to the most extreme elements of the GOP base, those who still believe the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.
If Florida’s Governor wants to prove me wrong, then DeSantis can start by ordering a thorough investigation of the Republican voter registration fraud scheme that targeted seniors in Miami-Dade and prosecute those who are responsible.
I won’t hold my breath.
Until Florida’s election police go out and catch the Republican crooks, they’re just an example of big government waste in service of partisan advantage for the Governor.
Here’s a news report about an elderly woman whom Republicans confused into changing her party registration:
Listen to this elderly Miami voter describe how his party affiliation was unwittingly changed to Republican after interacting with canvassers from the Republican Party of Florida:pic.twitter.com/cWp52mi3FD
— Thomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) February 28, 2022
Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.
This is an opinion column.
is a reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.