TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In November of 2020, while much of the rest of the country was still sorting out ballots and trying to figure out who won, Florida was calling it a night.
The state’s election system, much maligned following the 2000 recount, performed so well that state leaders including Gov. Ron DeSantis said it should be a model for the rest of the country.
That was then.
In the months that followed, Florida passed sweeping changes to its election laws, reducing the amount of time vote-by-mail requests are valid and imposing new stricter standards for drop boxes. Now, DeSantis wants to go even further, proposing a $6 million new law enforcement agency to investigate election fraud.
“Everybody in the elections community is 100% committed to election security and we want to identify and eradicate any fraud that might be occurring,” said Lake County Supervisor of Election Alan Hays. “So in that sense I think we’re in complete harmony with the governor’s office and with his objective.”
But Hays, a former appropriations subcommittee chairman in the Florida legislature, questions the price tag given the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud in Florida’s elections.
“I would be curious to know how is this $6 million going to be justified? Is there really that much election crime being committed?” Hays said. “I’m not aware of there being enough election fraud or any other type of thing going on, I haven’t heard it from any of the other supervisors, but perhaps the governor has heard. He has a different sounding board than I do.”
“Where is this fraud? Show us this fraud. We’re on the ground, so use examples and they’re not giving it to us,” said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles. “This is a solution in search of a problem.”
Supervisors point out the state already has a myriad of ways to investigate allegations of voter fraud from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to state attorneys. In addition, vote counting as well as the canvassing of votes is all done in public.
So far, no legislation has been filed to create or pay for this new agency, however, lawmakers are not scheduled to be back in regular session until 2022.