Florida’s new election police are exactly what no one needs

Congratulations to aspiring tinpot dictator Ron DeSantis on his new private goon squad.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2021/11/22: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conf...
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As the longstanding conservative effort to rig the electoral process chugs ahead across the country, it can be hard sometimes to definitely say which GOP-led state is actually The Worst™ when it comes to voting rights. And yet, despite stiff and persistent competition from Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and other states where conservatives are working to gut, gerrymander, and game the electoral process in their favor, this week it was Florida, under GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, which took home the coveted title of absolute worst, most dystopian voting “rights” state in the union.

On Wednesday, lawmakers in the state’s Republican-held House approved a $2.5 million measure to create the nation’s first “Office of Election Crimes and Security” — essentially a new department comprising more than two dozen voting cops, answerable solely to the governor’s office, as DeSantis had first requested this past November. The bill, which already passed the state Senate a few weeks ago, is now headed to the governor’s desk, where DeSantis is widely expected to sign it.

“We’re very excited and thank the legislature for delivering on Gov. DeSantis’s election security initiative. The legislature carried out our goal of making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” a DeSantis spokesperson said after the vote passed.

Despite the alarmist pearl-clutching from conservatives — including DeSantis — over voter fraud, the GOP’s electoral bogeyman is virtually non-existent in Florida, or really anywhere across the country. Not that that’s stopped Florida Republicans from pushing some of the most restrictive, punitive voting laws in the U.S., all in the name of solving a problem that, statistically, isn’t real.

“Election fraud is a unicorn,” Florida Democratic state Rep. Joe Geller explained in response to the new measure. “It’s not real except in very sparse isolated incidents.”

“Should we be spending millions on a problem that doesn’t exist?” he added.

In addition to establishing a new police force to criminalize a virtually made-up problem, the new measure also makes the formerly widespread — and until last year, entirely legal — process of ballot harvesting a felony. (Ballot harvesting, while given a sinister name by conservatives, is just the practice of a designated person collecting other people’s legally completed absentee ballots and dropping them at a legitimate post box or polling place.) It additionally intensifies regular voter roll purges.

Cumulatively, the implication is hard to ignore: DeSantis, and his fellow Florida Republicans are putting in place an infrastructure to control and indeed, literally police future elections for their own political benefit. And it comes at the expense of voters who are now subject to criminal prosecution from a select group of law enforcement officers who will target and investigate practices that people have been legally doing for years. From here on out, DeSantis may claim his state’s elections are more secure than ever, but clearly, they’re not going to exactly be legitimate, either.