Florida Governor Proposes Election Police

The Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, has proposed establishing a special police force dedicated to investigating what it deems to be violations of election laws. If approved by the state legislature, the new office would have a 52-member team, including 20 police officers, to "investigate, detect, apprehend, and arrest anyone for an alleged violation" of election laws. DeSantis wants $5.7 million to create the Office of Election Crimes and Security. The Office would give the executive branch unprecedented power to investigate whatever it considers voting irregularities, including making arrests. Executive power can be directly used to decide if voters and votes are valid and if county approval of the vote count is valid, to target voter registration drives, etc.

Florida law enforcement agencies, local election officials and state prosecutors already have the power to enforce Florida election laws. The election police DeSantis wants would take matters out of their hands and put it in the hands of the Governor. Florida's Secretary of State, who would administer the police force, is appointed by the Governor.

The election police could probe allegations of voter fraud in the state as well as take over other law enforcement agencies' investigations. DeSantis could also have this new force investigate election officers and "conduct proactive information gathering and investigations to identify and prevent potential election law violations or election irregularities." Wesley Wilcox, a Republican who runs elections in Marion County, in central Florida, said he was taken aback by what he called the "tough" wording in the law and that it made county officials look like the "bad guys." Broward County (Miami area) Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott said, "It sounds like they are going to focus on grassroots organizations -- the type of organizations that go out and do voter registration drives."

DeSantis says his proposal will "provide Floridians with the confidence that their vote will matter." This is in the context of the widespread consciousness among the people that U.S. elections are not "free and fair" in a system designed to keep the rich in power and the people out, including by blocking the right to vote. The votes of almost half of those eligible are not counted because they are unable to register and many of those who are registered are blocked through numerous other means.

The new election police are a tool to increase executive power over elections while intimidating and criminalizing voters in conditions where voter fraud, in Florida and elsewhere across the country, is almost non-existent. Fraud by officials, on the other hand, is well-known, whether it is arbitrarily removing voters from the rolls, often on a racist basis, closing or moving polling places on Election Day, imposing arbitrary requirements to register, and more.

DeSantis is among those proposing additional laws for stricter voter ID requirements for voting by mail and restrictions on ballot drop boxes, both widely used in COVID conditions. The drawing of district voting lines is another means to discount votes and favour either Democrats or Republicans. Along with his election police force, DeSantis is proposing a district map that favours Republicans and weakens the Black vote, for example.

Greater executive power and use of police powers to criminalize voters, whether at the state or federal level, is solving no problem -- while in the eyes of the people it further confirms that those in power now are unfit to govern.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 3 - March 6, 2022

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