Gov. DeSantis wants to create office to investigate election crimes

Governor Ron DeSantis says he wants to investigate election crimes and wants to create an investigation unit in Florida.

The governor has already set aside $5.7M for this unit in the 2022-2023 budget. Local election officials are now sounding off about this new proposal.

Tommy Doyle is Lee County’s supervisor of elections and says he’s in favor of anything that reinforces elections security. But there are still a lot of questions about how the unit would work and how dire the need is.

If things go Governor DeSantis’ way, there could be an Election and Crime Security Office.

“And I guarantee you this the first person that gets caught nobody wants to do it again after that because they know there’s enforcement,” DeSantis said.

For now, DeSantis claims, there aren’t enough people in this state that are trained to investigate election crimes. His new budget proposal would change. The plan is to hire 52 people whose job it would be to handle any election fraud cases.

“I know local law enforcement, given the climate, is taking this more seriously. Whether it’s needed or not, it remains to be seen,” Doyle said.

Why wouldn’t DeSantis’ unit be needed? Officials say voter fraud does happen, but it’s extremely rare. Doyle says the county’s biggest problem is the “misinformation campaigns” that are spreading lies about widespread voter fraud.

Doyle says he’s only sent two cases of fraud to law enforcement. “There’s always going to be some fraud coming, but it’s so minor,” he said.

Andrew Warren is the Hillborough County State Attorney, and he told the Tampa Bay Times, “What in the world are 52 investigators going to do all year long? Wait for the phone to ring?”

Alan Johnson is Palm Beach County’s Chief Assistant State Attorney. He told the Tampa Bay Times that DeSantis’ solution is overkill. He says it’s like “swatting a mosquito with a sledgehammer.”

Doyle says he’s not willing to make assumptions like that just yet. “I haven’t seen the bill. Let’s wait till the bill comes out before we comment. If that’s overkill, or not,” he said.

Three people who live in The Villages were arrested within the last two weeks for casting more than one ballot in the 2020 election. But Doyle says that shows just how rare it is. “But they have several, probably close to 150 to 200,000 voters,” he said. “And you talking three voters as minor fraud. That’s not… that’s not significant. It’s not going to make a difference.”

But, just because it’s not widespread doesn’t mean it’s not important. “Anything that deters voter fraud is, of course, I’m supporting,” said Doyle.

Governor DeSantis says, if approved, would create the first election and crime unit in the nation. Lawmakers head back to Tallahassee for the new legislative session on January 11, 2022.

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Drew Hill
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