Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law on Monday that will create a new police unit specifically to deal with election laws in his state.
Florida Senate Bill 524 requires the state’s voter rolls to be annually reviewed and updated to remove ineligible voters, tightens voter ID requirements, and increases penalties for some election-related crimes. Most notably, it establishes the Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State, which investigates election law violations. The bill also instructs the Secretary of State to submit a report and draft legislation for any further action to strengthen voter ID requirements.
“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.”
Politico reported Monday that additional investigators would be authorized within the state’s Department of Law Enforcement. State lawmakers set aside a budget of $2.6 million and 25 positions for the two agencies. DeSantis first floated the idea of a dedicated election crimes unit in 2020, amid calls from Republicans to conduct a full audit of his state’s election results.
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.
The new election integrity law is just the latest in a long line of conservative policy priorities DeSantis has signed into law in recent weeks. At the end of March, DeSantis signed a law requiring schools to be transparent with parents about instructional reading materials. DeSantis then signed HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, into law on March 28, in the midst of leftist outrage. Earlier this month, DeSantis signed bills into law guaranteeing Florida families the right to visit their loved ones receiving care in hospitals, hospices, and long-term care facilities, and providing more than $70 million to support fatherhood in Florida. DeSantis also submitted a redistricting plan that would give Republicans four more favorable districts, effectively wiping out Democrats redistricting gains in the process. Most recently, DeSantis signed a law effectively banning Critical Race Theory in schools and another law stripping Disney of its special tax status over concerns about the company’s woke social agenda.