TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke in West Palm Beach about election integrity, the day after the Nov. 2 municipal elections and announced election reform as a main policy goal for the 2022 legislative session.
DeSantis spoke about the state’s ban on so-called “Zuckerbucks” and how the state has focused on improving election security following the 2020 election, such as steps to limit ballot harvesting. He also spoke about non-residents and non-citizens are sometimes given ballots but in Florida, only residents can vote.
Ahead of next year’s legislative session, DeSantis promised further election reforms to make Florida the best in the nation.
“We are going to create a separate office at the state level,” solely for prosecuting election crimes, DeSantis said. He said there will be investigators, sworn law enforcement officers, and a statewide prosecutor to staff the office and investigate cases of alleged election fraud.
The governor said there will be specialists who “understand what’s legal, what’s not legal” and that they’ll investigate any crimes during the election. He also said ballot harvesting would be a third-degree felony in Florida, not a misdemeanor, following legislative changes during the 2022 session.
Focusing on election rolls, DeSantis said that the state’s “dynamic population” meant that election offices must make sure that they are following guidelines and keeping voting rolls “clean” so that ballots aren’t sent to homes of deceased voters.
He turned his criticism of election practices to California’s policy of “sending ballots” to everyone. DeSantis said that one goal of the voting legislation next year will also be to set deadlines for cleaning voter rolls and addressing further need for reform to remove voting drop boxes.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people in your legislature that think differently,” DeSantis said about the need for drop boxes for ballots. Still, he said the boxes should be more thoroughly observed, and that ballots cannot be dropped off after an election to avoid having people “stuff” drop boxes with ballots.
DeSantis alleged that in places like Atlanta, Ga., people go to “30 drop boxes” with ballots, and that voting should be private, instead of having someone “with a stack of 50 ballots” go to multiple boxes. He said that that’s not going to be allowed in Florida.
“I’m excited about having actual ability to enforce” DeSantis said. “That’s what happened with the Parents’ Bill of Rights.”
The governor said that the lack of enforcement options from the Parents’ Bill of Rights is what lead to the current slate of legal challenges to the bill, referring to the multiple mask policy lawsuits that are ongoing in the state.
Talking about the level of migration from across the United States to Florida, DeSantis said people are “voting with their feet” and coming to the Sunshine State.
Compared to Florida, DeSantis said that there’s a culture of law-breaking in other states, but here, “we stand by law enforcement” and touted the $1,000 bonuses for first responders.
“We see how they’re treated in other places” like Minneapolis and New York, and said that during the coming legislative session, they’ll be working on approving signing bonuses for officers moving to Florida from out of state, and teased the potential for more $1,000 bonuses next year.
Then, returning to the topic of ongoing litigation, DeSantis spoke about court battles focused on censorship, COVID-19 and social media. The governor also leveled criticism at Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of Health for COVID policies, research, funding of a research lab in Wuhan, China and animal testing, among other topics.
Toward the end, DeSantis leaned into the current popular anti-Biden meme “Let’s Go Brandon,” calling the White House’s current leadership the “Brandon administration.”