Newly-installed Secretary of State Cord Byrd said Tuesday that one of his top priorities is to get a new “Office of Election Crimes and Security” up and running ahead of this year’s election.
Byrd has only been on the job for a week. He made the comments while spending one of his first few days at the summer conference of Florida’s local Election Supervisors being held at a resort hotel near Destin.
During a brief availability with reporters, Byrd said that he plans to hire a director to head up the new office created as a result of SB 524 and that there were already “potential cases” of voter fraud that the new office, which will work in tandem with sworn law enforcement investigators at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, could handle.
“Much of the information we already have in house,” said Byrd, who added he will likely hire former law enforcement officials, data analysts and investigators for the new office.
Gov. Ron DeSantis tapped Byrd, a 51-year-old lawyer who was first elected to the Florida House in 2016, to serve as Secretary of State after Laurel Lee resigned and jumped into a race for Florida’s 15th congressional district.
Byrd’s selection has been sharply criticized by Democrats who contend he is too partisan to handle the duties as Florida’s chief election officer. Democrats have also warned that the new election crimes office could be used to target voters — including minority voters — who vote Democratic.
While in the Legislature, Byrd voted in favor of a new law that placed additional restrictions on mail-in ballots and drop boxes that drew a lawsuit from voting rights and civil rights groups.
Byrd was asked if he believed President Joe Biden won the election “fair and square.”
Both times Byrd said that Biden was “certified” as the winner and that he is the President. He said there were “irregularities” in other states but added, “What I’m concerned about is that I’m the Secretary of State of Florida, I’m not the Secretary of State of Wisconsin or Pennsylvania or Arizona. That’s up to their voters.”
Byrd did stress that Florida’s election in 2020 was “successful and accurate.” Some Republicans in the state have contended that a “forensic audit” of the election was needed and that former President Donald Trump should have won the state by a larger margin than he did. DeSantis and Lee rejected calls for the audit.
Byrd also said that Florida voters should have “confidence” in mail-in ballots.