The election police force established Monday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will have 15 staff members and 10 law enforcement officers appointed by the governor. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo
April 25 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a sweeping election reform bill establishing one of the nation's first election-focused police forces.
DeSantis referenced "some rough go's with elections throughout the years" in Florida while touting his efforts to reform the state's election infrastructure since taking office in 2019 during a press conference at a sports bar in the Tampa Bay area.
"I don't think there's any other place in the country that you should have more confidence that your vote counts than in the state of Florida," he said.
The law establishes an Office of Election Crimes and Security within Florida's Department of State comprised of 15 staff members to conduct preliminary investigations of election fraud and 10 law enforcement officers appointed by DeSantis to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate election crimes.
The governor had originally proposed a 52-member staff with a budget of $5.7 million but the measure was toned down amid pushback from Democrats who noted that DeSantis said last year that Florida passed its automatic post-election audits of the 2020 race with "flying colors."
"Even the governor has said that Florida's 2020 election was secure -- yet this new election crime task force has been deployed to solve a problem that does not exist," Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson said, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
In addition to establishing the election police force, the law raises the penalty for anyone collecting, possessing or submitting more than two absentee ballots in addition to his or her own from a misdemeanor to a felony, requires elections supervisors to cull voter rolls every year instead of every two years and establishes a $1,000 fine for switching a voter's registration without their consent.
"We want to be in a situation where everyone knows the rule ... know that you can go vote in person, you can vote absentee, but what you can't do is collect a bunch of ballots and dump them somewhere," DeSantis said.