Legislative leaders won’t endorse Ron DeSantis’ elections package, but offer nods
Gov. Ron DeSantis flanked by House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson. Image via Colin Hackley.

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Invoking voting rights to defend 'ballot harvesting' is Orwellian, DeSantis says.

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants Florida to have a law enforcement office dedicated to enforcing election laws, and the state’s legislative leaders say the Governor has a point.

But while the measure remains a top priority for the Governor, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls stopped short of fully endorsing DeSantis’ elections proposal.

The measure calls for a statewide law enforcement office to investigate and prosecute election crimes and fraud, including “ballot harvesting” claims. The proposal also aims to add guardrails to ballot drop box laws and to increase how often elections supervisors clear voter rolls.

Some activists and Democrats, including President Joe Biden, labeled similar election measures across the nation last year as “Jim Crow 2.0,” arguing they were affronts to voting rights. During Tuesday’s State of the State address, DeSantis declared that ballot harvesting has no place in the Sunshine State.

“It is Orwellian doublespeak to invoke the concept of voting rights to mean ballot harvesting or prohibiting voter ID or having taxpayers fund elections,” the Governor said. “Those are political concepts that erode the integrity of our elections.”

DeSantis announced the proposal in December as a follow-up to last Session’s elections package. Republican officials have said last year’s measures sought to build off of the state’s smooth 2020 election.

Republican-led states nationwide bolstered election security laws last year in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s failed re-election bid.

Passing new election laws in an election year is a controversial proposition that gives some lawmakers pause. However, in news conferences after DeSantis’ speech, both Simpson and Sprowls said the Governor has a “point” or “points” when it comes to the latest elections proposal.

Simpson said he isn’t leaning into the latest measure as a Senate priority, but noted he is listening to several election proposals. His chamber will vet election proposals as they pass through the Senate process, he added.

“I think that in our case, Floridians — but Americans — should be very proud of the way our elections are run,” Simpson said. But he continued: “There should not be the hesitancy in the notion there is fraud in our election process.”

Sprowls said law enforcement offices will have units dedicated to complex legal matters, such as elder fraud. DeSantis’ proposal calls for a 52-person office costing $5.7 million.

“I think the Governor’s concerned that there’s not that level of sophistication out there of people who are working these kinds of cases,” Sprowls said. “We’re going to look at it, we’ll evaluate it and see what happens.”

The comments come the same day Biden announced his support for changing the U.S. Senate filibuster rules to allow Congress to pass voting rights legislation that has been on hold for months.

“I’m tired of being quiet,” Biden said during a speech in Atlanta. “I will not yield. I will not flinch.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


4 comments

  • PeterH

    January 11, 2022 at 4:12 pm

    All 2020 Florida election fraud was perpetrated by Republicans….. not a single Democrat. Four were arrested in The Villages …. a Republican stronghold.

    All are being prosecuted and we didn’t need a 50 member panel costing $7 million dollars to catch them or lock them up. We have very capable oversight in place …. we also can rely on the Justice Department.

    Reply

    • Josey

      January 12, 2022 at 11:30 am

      Exactly!
      And those 4 were found by an anonymous concerned citizen checking voting records of Villages residents in FL & another state.
      Yep they voted in Both states in 2020 – obeying Trump who told his fans to vote Twice!
      How many more violators among the Villages?

      Reply

    • thomas behan

      January 20, 2022 at 12:15 pm

      normally i would agree you. but theses are not normal times. the democratic machine is rolling over all obstacles. if we are are to have accurate elections, we must have stout roadblocks to that corrupt and immoral machine. its a small price to pay keep america….america..
      PS i think the governor has done and is doing a great job of keeping florida AMERICAN!!!!!!

      Reply

  • thomas behan

    January 20, 2022 at 12:04 pm

    trump may have an arrogant tongue…..but i would lov e to hear josey,s proof that donald trump asked his supporters to vote twice. not hearsay…proof

    Reply

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