Gov. Ron DeSantis has deployed the Florida National Guard to several locations across the state on Election Day for local law enforcement purposes.
Across the country, Governors have activated their state National Guards to potentially play law enforcement roles if there is election-related violence. Some have filled in as un-uniformed poll workers or to provide cybersecurity expertise in monitoring potential intrusions into election systems.
The Governor’s Office confirmed the deployment and the Florida National Guard confirmed that guardsmen were deployed to several locations. But Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Caitlin Brown would not elaborate for “operational security concerns.”
“At the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, and out of an abundance of caution, the Florida National Guard is activating a number of soldiers who will be pre-positioned in several locations across the state, standing by to assist local law enforcement and their communities as needed,” Brown said.
The National Guard has been deployed in Florida for much of the year. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, guardsmen have operated testing sites, where people can now be tested for free.
In May when protests erupted nationwide over George Floyd‘s death in Minneapolis, Minnesota, DeSantis activated the guard as some protests, mostly elsewhere in the nation, turned violent. The Governor has highlighted that activation as part of Republicans’ law and order messaging in the lead-up to Election Day.
Because guardsmen were temporarily reassigned, 10 testing sites were closed the Monday.
The Florida National Guard also has remained active during hurricane season, responding to multiple storms that have hit the Panhandle in recent months.
Stephen Dycus, professor emeritus at Vermont Law School, told The Associated Press that states can, if necessary, deploy uniformed Guard troops to help keep order at the polls. But, he said, “there’s a very fine line between protection and intimidation. So any activity that is designed to intimidate voters or suppress voting violates federal election laws.”