Imagine a well-intentioned but perhaps naïve NASA engineer proposing to equip the International Space Station (ISS) with a $3.7 million car alarm to prevent it from being stolen. Seeing how nobody has ever tried to steal the ISS (and that a car alarm would do nothing to stop a thief), this would be a truly useless expenditure. That being said, it would be a harmless waste of taxpayer money proposed by a well-meaning government official. Somebody with more sinister motives, on the other hand, could do a lot of damage with that kind of money. And that brings us to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
Last week, he signed into law a bill that establishes an “election fraud police” unit. Officially, its name is the “Office of Election Crimes and Security,” but we’ll call it his General Election Safety, Transparency, and Accountability Police Operation and let you figure out the acronym on your own.
Like our ISS car alarm, it costs $3.7 million and is also an utterly useless solution to a problem that essentially does not exist. Apart from a handful of Republican residents of The Villages retirement community who got caught voting twice, there is no evidence that in-person voter fraud is a major problem in Florida. In fact, it’s not an issue anywhere. An Associated Press investigation found a total of 473 cases in six battleground states in the 2020 election, where a total of 25.7 million votes were cast.
Unlike our fictitious NASA engineer, however, DeSantis is neither well-intentioned nor naïve. Like other Republican lawmakers across the country, he is using former President Donald Trump’s Big Lie of a stolen 2020 election to set the stage for a massive voter suppression and disenfranchisement operation the next time around.
How do we know that DeSantis is not acting in good faith and that his election fraud police force is likely part of an effort to tilt the next election in his party’s favor? Well, he essentially told us.
When many other states were still counting votes in 2020 — and Trump and his cronies began making false allegations of irregularities — DeSantis was praising Florida’s performance.
“Why can’t these states be more like Florida?” he asked at a media availability on the day after the election, adding that “the way Florida did it, I think inspires confidence, I think that’s how elections should be run.”
So, you may ask yourself: Why would a state in which the last election was so exemplary and that has so few cases of in-person voter fraud need a police unit to investigate election crimes?
That’s a great question!
Let’s try a multiple-choice answer.
- a) To send cops to The Villages to catch one of the idiots bragging at a MAGA event that they will illegally vote for Donald Trump in Florida and in Connecticut.
- b) To send cops to Mar-a-Lago to question a certain ex-president about why he keeps lying about the 2020 election and to discourage him from urging people to illegally vote multiple times.
- c) To have these cops call election integrity groups and say things like: “That’s a nice nonprofit you have here. It would be a shame if something happened to it.”
See, the law that created DeSantis’s Voter Fraudstapo, along with a sweeping voter suppression law passed in 2021, imposes many new restrictions primarily targeting demographics that tend to vote for Democrats. Fortunately, a federal judge has struck down most provisions of the latter, noting that “the right to vote, and the [Voting Rights Act] particularly, are under siege.”
Here are some of the things these laws do/would do:
- Add new hurdles to voting by mail.
- Criminalize the practice of allowing volunteers to help people vote who may need assistance, such as the elderly and people with disabilities.
- Restrict the use of vote-by-mail drop boxes.
In addition, even though Florida’s voters in 2018 overwhelmingly supported Amendment 4, which granted most former felons the right to vote, the state’s GOP majority quickly took that right away again for many of them. It passed a law that requires former felons to first pay restitution, fines, and fees before being allowed to vote.
If that sounds an awful lot like a poll tax, that’s because it is. In 2020, the new law also caused a lot of confusion among former felons who thought they were eligible to vote but were not because, essentially, Republicans worried they’d vote for Democrats. This may even land some of them back in jail.
In other words, DeSantis and state Republicans have created many opportunities for an “Office of Election Crimes and Security” to go after voting rights groups and try to intimidate them.
That being said, there are a couple of useful provisions in the law that created the “voter fraud police.” First of all, it allows members of the public to submit reports of “alleged occurrences of election law violations.”
In addition, the department has to prepare an annual report detailing its investigations, which will include the source of the alleged violation and the status of the complaint.
This report has to be submitted to the governor as well as to the leaders of the Florida Senate and its House of Representatives, i.e., the people primarily responsible for curbing the voting rights of Floridians.
Do you see where we are going with this?
Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what would happen if members of the public ask the Office of Election Crimes and Security to investigate DeSantis, House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) and Senate President Wilton Simpson (R) as three of the worst violators of voting rights in Florida?
We’ll certainly be submitting ours. Stay tuned!
The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Nazi (Daniel Harvey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), signs (Lorie Shaull / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), megaphone (francis mckee / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), wire (gisoft / Pixabay), dog (Arctic Warrior / Flickr), dog (Justin Connaher / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), dog (US Air Force), and police (Barry Stock / Flickr – CC BY 2.0).