Florida Senate Approves Election Police Force — A Partisan Move or a Step Towards Fairer Elections?

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Late on Friday March 4, Florida’s State Senate voted in favor of SB 524 — the election reforms bill. Politicians voted along partisan lines and approved the bill by 23 votes to 15.

It means that Florida will be the first state to establish an ‘Office of Election Crimes and Security’ — what appears to be a form of ‘election police force’ intended to specifically target allegations of voter fraud and to intervene where it is suspected or anticipated.

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While few would argue against measures that ensure that elections are always fair and free from interference, many are concerned that specific controls in the bill — which is now set to pass into law — seem to be anything but impartial or free from partisan influence.

Complicating postal voting

Many of those who voted for Donald Trump in the last election believe that a significant factor in the alleged ‘stealing’ of the presidency was unregulated postal voting.

SB 524 will introduce further complications and rules to be applied to postal voting that effectively make these votes more difficult to complete and submit. It seems like a backhanded means of discouraging postal votes, targeted at a particular segment of voters who’d rather vote by post or who are only able to do so.

Critics point out that the measures (which involve submitting votes and identifying materials in a combination of 4 envelopes) may be enough to discourage some voters from submitting their postal votes.

Commenting on the restrictions, Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox had this to say:

“Getting voters to follow instructions is not easy. If you think they are going to follow the instructions with all these envelopes, you got another thought coming.”

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A governor-controlled election police force

Perhaps more significantly, Florida will now establish an ‘Election Police Force’ — the governor would be allowed to appoint special law enforcement agents to pursue cases of voter fraud.

Many Democrats from within the state, including Senator Tina Scott Polsky have been critical of the very idea of setting up such a force, expressing concern that the force could be a means of singling out certain communities who they believe would be the focus of investigations.

This seems a move that’s motivated more by partisanship than by fairness.

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Is DeSantis preparing the ground for a presidential campaign?

Electoral reforms were first introduced under SB 90 — a controversial law was signed by Governor DeSantis in May 2021. This restricted the use of drop boxes for postal ballots, introduced new ID rules and required voters to reapply for mail-in ballots more regularly.

Governor DeSantis’ critics believed that these rules were a means of him protecting his chances as a White House candidate for 2024, given that Florida is a crucial presidential swing state. This could well be the case, even though Florida has a notoriously low incidence of voter fraud already.

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