Truth seeks light, lies seek shadows.
In our electoral process, we must eliminate the shadows that otherwise erode our trust in our democratic process. As the Chair of the Florida Elections Commission and someone previously involved in campaign operations and election litigation, I fully support Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ call for an Office of Election Crimes and Security. It should be a bipartisan maxim to protect the integrity of elections and instill faith in the accuracy of our election results.
Hanging chads are a distant memory, as Florida is held up as the national standard on Election Day. Florida has benefited from the foresight of election integrity champions in the Legislature throughout the years that have made the controversial practice of ballot harvesting illegal, strengthened the vote-by-mail ballot processes, and provided voters seemingly endless opportunities to make their voices heard.
This year the baton has been passed to Republicans Sen. Travis Hutson of St. Augustine and Rep. Danny Perez of Miami as they carry SB 524 and HB 7061, respectively. These efforts would establish DeSantis’ Office of Election Crimes & Security and also add additional common-sense protections.
Legislators that decry these efforts as some dystopian Jim Crow 2.0 are being disingenuous at best. The time is now for bipartisanship in addressing election shenanigans.
Reports of dark-money groups collecting ballots en mass, campaign staff assisting voters inside the polls in North Miami, and elderly voter registrations allegedly being switched from Democrat to Republican without their consent are unacceptable headlines. Bad actors will continue to lurk if we don’t act with a show of strength. The Office of Election Crimes & Security can be the guardians of election integrity, empowered to investigate these bad actors and hold each and every individual and organization accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Additionally, Hutson and Perez’s proposals improve the signature verification process and maintenance of voter rolls. For years, Supervisors of Elections, hand-writing experts, and pundits have criticized the signature match method of authenticating vote-by-mail ballots. Requiring voters to include additional information, such as the last four digits of either their Florida identification, driver’s license number, or Social Security number on their vote-by-mail ballot will take out the guesswork of Election Day volunteers. These four numbers would also be required when updating voter registration online. While seemingly a simple addition, it will greatly reduce the opportunity and potential for fraud.
Nothing good can come from paid operatives handling multiple ballots outside of the sunshine, attempting to drop off ballots under the cloak of secrecy. Lawmakers took positive steps last year clarifying the crime of ballot harvesting.
This year, they look to increase the punishment for possessing more than two ballots not belonging to the voter or an immediate family member from a misdemeanor to a felony. A minor amendment that carries major implications and hopefully acts as a deterrence for those attempting to cheat the ballot box.
Any reports of alleged voter fraud and illegal acts in Florida’s electoral process are unacceptable. We can choose to accept what lurks in the shadows or shine a light toward ensuring free, fair and transparent elections.
The safety and security of voter registration, vote-by-mail, drop boxes, the processing of ballots, and our elections are too important to ignore.
Nick Primrose is the current chair of the Florida Elections Commission and previously served as a Deputy General Counsel for both Govs. Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott. He was also the Florida Election Day Operations Director for the NRSC and Scott’s campaign in 2018 during Florida’s last statewide manual recount.