The bill comes as Republicans continue to prop up Donald Trump’s lies about election fraud.
Florida legislators passed a new bill Wednesday to establish an Office of Election Crimes to investigate voter fraud claims as Republicans continue to amplify former president Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of widespread election misconduct.
The new, taxpayer-funded Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State will have a staff of civilian investigators tasked with looking into claims submitted to Florida’s voter fraud hotline. Additionally, the bill will require the governor to appoint at least seven “special officers” — that is, members of law enforcement — to investigate allegations of election fraud (the governor already has this power, but this bill would mandate it).
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, pitched the idea for the office late last year and is expected to sign the bill, though it’s a slimmed-down version of his initial proposal.
It’s not clear why any of this is necessary. Voter fraud is extremely rare and there is no evidence of widespread issues in the 2020 election in Florida, which Trump won. The state’s voter fraud hotline already exists and its Department of State is already empowered to investigate claims of voter fraud and refer cases for prosecution. Florida has already conducted official audits of the 2020 election, which, in DeSantis’ own words, they “passed with flying colors.” Just after Election Day, DeSantis declared Florida an example of how to run elections properly, saying the state “inspires confidence” and that “perhaps 2020 was the year that we finally vanquished the ghosts of Bush vs. Gore.” His office did not respond to a request for comment.
But creating a statewide agency called the Office of Election Crimes implies there is a statewide-agency-level need. And it’s part of a pattern of Republicans across the US baselessly perpetuating fears about election fraud in the wake of Trump’s loss. Legislators in Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania have launched investigations into the 2020 election, helping to spread conspiracy theories, while Republicans in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, and Texas have passed legislation to increase criminal penalties for election workers, all in the name of “election integrity.”
“They’re all part of the same playbook,” said Daniel Griffith, policy director for the voting rights group Secure Democracy USA. “All of those are really designed to kind of undermine the process, to go ahead and preemptively cast the seeds of doubt on the results of the 2024 election. And I think, more generally, call into question the election process.”