Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis passed a bill on Monday to create a new police unit specifically responsible for the enforcement of election laws in the state.
Florida Senate Bill 524 requires the state's voter rolls to be subject to an annual review and updated to remove ineligible voters. The bill also tightens voter ID requirements and raises penalties for certain election-related crimes.
Crucially, the bill established the Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State. The office’s sole purpose is to investigate election law violations, and its establishment is expected to raise the level of trust of the voting populace, which saw a significant decline following the defeat of former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
“Twenty years ago, nobody thought Florida was a prime example of how to conduct elections, but we have become a national leader by running the most secure elections in the country,” DeSantis said in a press release. “We need to do more to ensure our elections remain secure. We have ended ballot harvesting, stopped drop boxes and the mass mailing of ballots, and banned Zuckerbucks, and this bill will give us more resources to make sure bad actors are held accountable.”
DeSantis first proposed the suggestion for an election crimes unit in 2020 following calls from Republicans to perform a full audit of his state’s election results.
According to Politico, state lawmakers have set aside a $2.5 million budget and 25 positions for two agencies, which includes the Department of Law Enforcement.
The Daily Wire reported:
DeSantis’s office lists other policies the bill codifies into law, distributing a handout that says the bill “[increases] the penalty for ballot harvesting from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years probation”; it also “[broadens] the prohibition of election supervisors from receiving ‘Zuckerbucks.’”
The term “Zuckerbucks” refers to contributions or investments made by private individuals or groups to state election supervisors, particularly Meta co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, distributed millions of dollars in grants across the country in the lead-up to the 2020 election through their nonprofit, the Center for Tech and Civic Life. In March, these grants came under increased scrutiny when a special counsel report in Wisconsin found that $9 million in grant money was distributed to five cities– Milwaukee, Racine, Madison, Kenosha, and Green Bay, in violation of Wisconsin election law.