Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday (April 25) that created a state task force dedicated to investigating voter fraud and other election-related crimes.
This makes the Sunshine State one of the first states in the country to adopt such a measure following former President Donald Trump’s defeat, CNN reports. The 45th president touted false claims of election fraud after the 2020 presidential election, a message amplified by Republicans and conservative pundits.
“I don’t think there is any other place in the country where you should have more confidence that your vote counts than in the state of Florida,” DeSantis, who’s pursuing reelection, said during a press briefing. “We just want to make sure whatever laws are on the books that those laws are enforced.” He also argued that local election officials and workers lack the expertise and tools to investigate voting-related complaints, despite such instances being very rare.
The new law creates an Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Florida Department of State, which reportedly costs $3.7 million. It also makes penalties for violating Florida election laws more severe. For example, it used to be a misdemeanor in the state to submit more than two vote-by-mail ballots on others’ behalf. Now that crime has been upgraded to a felony. Organizations can also face fines of $50,000 for violating voter registration rules.
DeSantis has been signing off on a slew of controversial laws and changes, including one congressional map he drew up that eliminated two traditionally Black districts ahead of the midterms. Black state lawmakers argue this weakens the voting power of Black Floridians and Democrats while giving a benefitting the already powerful GOP.