Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is working overtime to enshrine Trump’s big lie into law while minimizing Black and Brown political power. Days after civil rights groups sued over Florida’s new Congressional map that reduces four majority Black districts down to two, DeSantis signed a bill that would permit the creation of a special criminal agency to handle virtually non-existent voter fraud and other election crimes.
According to CBS News, the law creates a new department within the Florida Department of State and would require it to be staffed by state law enforcement officers. It also prohibits third-party groups from collecting completed ballots from people known as ballot collection and enhances the penalty to a felony.
Ballot collection isn’t the nefarious practice many Republicans make it out to be, used in places like North Dakota on reservations where ballot drop boxes or mailboxes might be far for those who do not have means of travel. The most notorious instance of ballot tampering in recent years involved a Republican operative in North Carolina.
There is no genuine problem of election-related crimes requiring a criminal task force, particularly not when it comes to alleged voter fraud. This move is likely a part of a more significant attempt to criminalize the work of democracy advocates seeking to disrupt the harm caused by DeSantis and his cronies. Again, voter fraud is virtually non-existent everywhere and the few cases identified in Florida were found and handled swiftly with the existing system and laws in place.
The election task force is not the only impact of the legislation. As Florida Rising pointed out on Twitter, the bill also prevents the use of ranked-choice voting in the state. These are not necessary measures to address a genuine issue in electoral access, participation or administration.
According to the Advancement Project, the move also comes on the heels of a successful legal challenge that struck down parts of the anti-voting rights legislation SB 90. Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project, called the fixation on voter fraud a dog whistle.
“As has been proven time and time again, claims of voter fraud are a dog whistle meant to provide cover for laws that make it nearly impossible for communities of color to cast their ballots,” Dianis said in a statement. “All these bills do is intimidate voters of color and make it more difficult to vote freely, effectively calling into question whether our elections can be free, fair and accessible.”
In February, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger publicly stated there needs to be heightened security at the polls. While on its face, such a move may seem innocuous, increasing the presence of guards or police at polling locations could deter Black and other voters of color.
Heralded as America’s hero for allegedly “standing up to Trump,” Raffensperger has also flirted with iterations of the big lie to appease the base and regain favor. Despite objecting to Trump’s request that he find votes in the aftermath of the 2020 election, Raffensperger had taken actions that give credence to those working to undermine free and fair elections, including siding with the out of state conservative group True the Vote when it tried to purge voters ahead of the 2021 Senate runoff elections.
“Picking and choosing which voters to hear and which to silence is against the values of our democracy. This is the latest of more than 400 new anti-voting laws across 49 states introduced in the last year, which have worked to silence the rising majority of Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous voters.”
Every election is important, but the stakes for democracy are exceptionally high as communities combat iterations of the big lie almost two years later. Widespread voter fraud is not a real issue, no matter how many times Republicans claim it is. But voter fraud allegations as a smokescreen for voter suppression is a genuine concern.
“We must fight against voter suppression before it happens. Our communities deserve to have their voices heard and participate in electing officials that create the laws that govern us.”
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