Florida Adds 'Election Police' To List Of Reasons To Avoid Florida
Early Voting, Charlotte, NC, 2008. Original photo by James Willamor, Creative Commons License 2.0

The Florida legislature, in a bid to steal the title of "national laboratory for bad government" from Texas's state Lege, voted Wednesday to give Gov. Ron DeSantis another item on his 2022 wish list. DeSantis pined in January for an entire law enforcement agency aimed at preventing election fraud, which is as extremely rare in Florida as anywhere else, and now he's got almost what he wanted, if downsized a bit.

DeSantis had requested that the Legislature spend $6 million to set up a new "Office of Election Crimes and Security," with a statewide staff of 53 employees and, we'd assume, full tactical gear so it can storm and subdue unruly voters who attempt to subvert the vote by giving water to old people waiting in line to vote. Instead, the Washington Post explains, the legislature gave him a $2.5 million squad that will have just 25 employees. The Post didn't offer details on what amount of the budget will be allocated to outfit each election cop with the most voter-intimidating mirrored sunglasses available.

As we noted when DeSantis first floated this awful idea, Florida's 2020 election fraud seems to have been limited to three retired folks from the Villages, all Republicans, who were charged with voting in both Florida and by absentee ballot in other states. We sure hope the new election cops can handle coming caseloads, with only eight or so cops per frauder instead of the 17 DeSantis wanted.

The Post notes that the vote cops will be the first such police force in the nation, although you have to figure that every Republican governor who has an eye on higher office will be demanding one now. The agency will be part of the Florida Department of State, so it will answer directly to DeSantis, at least when the officers aren't napping at their desks waiting for some fraud to happen.

Haha! As if! You see, to go along with the new voting cops, the Legislature enacted some brand new restrictions on voting, just to keep them busy — on top of the new election law that Florida passed just last year, which apparently didn't include enough voter suppression measures already.

Among the fresh new terrors will be an all-new ban on "ballot harvesting," which is the scary term Republicans use for what had until last year been a common practice: collecting absentee ballots at a church or community center and then delivering them to election offices. Despite there not having been any fraud resulting from the practice, it was banned in last year's voting law; the new measure passed yesterday ups the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony if someone possesses more than two absentee ballots. Each count will be subject to a fine up to $50,000 and five years in prison, so if you have two elderly aunts, be sure you deliver both their ballots to the elections office before you mail your own.

“So now we’re criminalizing certain acts around the elections process that most folks, particularly in the Black community, have long held as a way to assist those in need,” said Genesis Robinson, political director of Equal Ground, a voting rights advocacy group. “To spend time in jail for simply trying to be a good neighbor, that’s a problem.”

In addition, the legislature requires county election supervisors to purge voter rolls annually, instead of the previous every two years. We'll assume that next year, that will be changed to a monthly purge of inactive voters, regardless of whether there's been an election between purges. Another new rule imposed a $1000 fine for switching a voter's party registration without their consent. That one at least addresses something real, since in February, more than 100 senior citizens in Miami found out their party affiliation had become "Republican" without their having requested a change.

And in a move that's sure to make everyone stop complaining about the 2021 law's restrictions on absentee ballot drop boxes, the name has been changed to “secure ballot intake stations.” You can see why something important like THAT would have to be harder to use. (The Post notes that the restrictions on drop boxes is being challenged in federal court; no word on whether renaming them will make that lawsuit moot.)

It's not clear what other red state legislatures will come up with to match or top Florida's new election police. Mandatory frisking of all voters? DNA tests before voting? Life imprisonment for going outside the little circles on the ballot? Sales of surplus fighter-bomber aircraft to county elections bureaus?

We're looking forward to these and other innovations. America is built on the sanctity of the ballot box, and the best way to ensure the integrity of our elections is to make sure they're protected from common voters.

[WaPo / Original photo: James Willamor, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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