With all his talk about inflation and the costs of household items, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has no problem coming up with a new way to spend the government’s money.
Last week as legislators began a new session, DeSantis proposed an Office of Election Crimes and Security that would empower police to investigate elections and arrest people who are accused of violating election laws, The Washington Post reports.
DeSantis’ new office will employ 45 investigators and have a $5.7 million budget, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
While millions of dollars being thrown at election “irregularities,” experts say the low incidence rate of the problem doesn’t justify the cost and the potential impact on voters.
“There’s a reason that there’s no office of this size with this kind of unlimited investigative authority in any other state in the country, and it’s because election crimes and voter fraud are just not a problem of that magnitude,” Jonathan Diaz, a voting rights lawyer, told the Post.
In the same speech where DeSantis derided “Orwellian” tactics around voting rights during last week’s State of the State address, he announced this new law enforcement unit that would have the “sole focus” of enforcing election law. According to DeSantis, the unit “will provide Floridians with the confidence that their vote will count.”
Yet less than a year ago, DeSantis signed a bill to limit voting options, like the use of ballot drop boxes or allowing groups or individuals to gather absentee ballots on behalf of other voters, the Post notes.
Some experts and officials are concerned about DeSantis’ latest proposal.
“My number one concern is that this is going to be used as a tool to harass or intimidate civic engagement organizations and voters,” Diaz said.
Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott had similar sentiments. “It seems as if this is going to focus on a lot of grass-roots organizations that are out there trying to get people registered to vote, as well as people out there doing petition drives,” Scott shared with the Post. “I think this is going to lead to people being intimidated if they’re civically involved. I don’t want people to be scared away from doing those kinds of things.”