This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill “to ensure that Florida continues to have secure and accurate elections.”

The governor’s office offered some of the reasons why the governor signed the proposal from state Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, and state Rep. Danny Perez, R-Miami.

“This legislation will strengthen election security measures by requiring voter rolls to be annually reviewed and updated, strengthening ID requirements, establishing the Office of Election Crimes and Security to investigate election law violations, and increasing penalties for violations of election laws,” the governor’s office noted. “The bill also establishes the Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State. Before now, there was not a dedicated office to investigate all election crimes in Florida. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement received positions and resources in this year’s budget to support the criminal investigation of election crimes in partnership with the Office of Election Crimes and Security.

“The bill requires voter list maintenance to be conducted annually by supervisors of elections in order to combat the possibility of fraudulent voting,” the governor’s office added. “Finally, the bill requires the Department of State to recommend a plan on how to strengthen ID requirements for mail-in ballots. The Department of State must submit a report on the plan and draft legislation for any statutory changes needed to implement the plan by February 1, 2023. The plan will include how to prescribe the use of a Florida driver license number, Florida identification card number, social security number, or any part thereof to confirm the identity of each elector returning a vote-by-mail-ballot.” The bill also “increases the penalty for ballot harvesting from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and up to five years of probation.”

“Twenty years ago, nobody thought Florida was a prime example of how to conduct elections, but we have become a national leader by running the most secure elections in the country,” said DeSantis. “We need to do more to ensure our elections remain secure. We have ended ballot harvesting, stopped drop boxes and the mass mailing of ballots, and banned Zuckerbucks, and this bill will give us more resources to make sure bad actors are held accountable.”

“Governor DeSantis has made elections integrity a top priority from the very beginning of his administration, taking steps to ensure we invested in our elections systems, strengthened our cyber defenses, modernized equipment, updated voter rolls, and improved transparency, and we’ve seen results,” said Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee. “As Florida’s Chief Elections Official, I share Governor DeSantis’ strong commitment to elections integrity. We want to ensure that every Floridian can have confidence that in Florida, we do elections right.”

“Florida leads the nation in free and fair elections because Governor DeSantis and the Legislature have taken a proactive approach to address any issues,” said state Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Tribly. “Voter confidence in the integrity of our elections is essential to maintaining a democratic form of government, and I am grateful to Governor DeSantis for making election integrity in this state a focus of his administration. When people and organizations interfere with Florida elections, there are consequences.”

“I am proud to have worked with Governor DeSantis and his team to deliver a transformational elections reform bill,” said Hutson. “This law puts Florida at the forefront of election security and transparency.”

“In 2020, Florida set the example of a well-run election for the rest of the nation to see,” said Perez. “SB 524 is an example of our commitment to always do better and continue to be the best state in the nation for secure and accurate election results.”

Democrats pushed back this week, insisting DeSantis was looking to suppress the vote.

“The parade of bad bills just keeps coming. As if targeting marginalized communities wasn’t enough, the governor has now broadened his attacks to now include the voting freedoms of all Floridians. This bad bill encroaches on every Floridian’s right to a fair voting process free from arbitrary obstacles put in place by Tallahassee politicians. Governor DeSantis isn’t concerned with the governing of Florida but his own personal political objectives. Floridians deserve a fair opportunity to make their voices heard at the ballot box,” said state Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa.

“Another bill to suppress the vote. Why are the Republicans so afraid of the judgement of the citizens?” asked state Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura.

“Instead of working to increase access to the polls, Governor DeSantis continues to prioritize disinformation and feed into lies that the 2020 elections were not accurate which is super ironic and disingenuous because in November 2020 the governor was bragging about how well our elections went. But then again, DeSantis would rather make it harder to vote than actually meet the needs of all Floridians,” said state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando.

Kevin Derby
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