Florida Strikes Again: DeSantis Poised to Sign Further Protections for Free and Fair Elections

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

On March 9, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 524, which creates an Office of Election Crimes and Security to investigate cases of voter fraud in the state and refer them for prosecution. The bill, which awaits the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis, addresses a hole in the criminal justice system in Florida, where cases of election fraud have heretofore gone to die.


The Election Transparency Initiative released a statement praising the bill:

Governor Ron DeSantis will soon sign legislation to further strengthen election integrity in Florida law. Building on the successes of last year’s landmark election integrity package, S.B. 524 was recently passed by the state legislature and includes a series of measures proposed by DeSantis to further support fair, secure, and transparent Florida elections that voters can trust.

Shortly after the bill’s introduction, on February 3, 2021, the Election Transparency Initiative urged swift passage of the bill, calling upon Florida’s legislature to “continue lighting the way on these important issues, critical not just in Florida, but to all Americans seeking renewed faith in a democratic process they can believe in.”

Corporate media outlets at the state and national level have long mocked the push by those on the right to secure elections, accusing such efforts of having roots in systemic racism and voter suppression. PJ Media’s J. Christian Adams has pushed back hard on this narrative, documenting the paltry follow-up in Florida on cases of election fraud that never get prosecuted:

We now have hard data from Florida that shows serious potential election crimes have been ignored by both county and federal prosecutors in the Sunshine State.

This matters because vote fraud deniers will crow about how rare voter fraud is. If there are few convictions, they will say, then there must not be much fraud.

Whether or not prosecutors are pursuing possible election crimes they know about, however, is the weak link in that logical chain. And for the first time, we have a snapshot of data about failure to pursue election crimes.

This matters because Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed the creation of state authority to investigate and prosecute election crimes.

Let’s examine the data.

In just the 2018 and 2020 federal elections, election officials in just nine large Florida counties made over 150 election crime referrals to county prosecutors. County election officials are probably the best possible origin for an election crime referral. After all, this is their business and they have the experience and know the signs. You can read the full report, “Safe Harbor,” containing all the data here.

These election crime referrals were for acts such as voting twice, voting from illegal addresses, and foreigners voting.

Were all of the referrals lead pipe lock crimes? Maybe, maybe not. But you can bet some were.

Of those 156 referrals, guess how many resulted in actual criminal prosecutions?

If you guessed zero, you’d be right. Not one single county prosecutor did anything. No charges. No arrests. No convictions. As far anyone can tell, no nothing.


Adams noted that the Soros-funded Hillsborough County Elections Supervisor, which oversees Tampa and several other large cities, has a policy never to refer any election crimes to prosecutors.

He also documented the lack of action in his time at the Department of Justice:

In my time at the Voting Section at the United States Department of Justice, I encountered a profound hostility among the rank and file to doing anything about voter fraud. Indeed, I appeared on Fox News numerous times calling for the head of the Election Crimes Branch, Richard Pilger, to be fired because of his role in blocking numerous election crime investigations.

To much fanfare, Pilger resigned in a fury right after the November 2020 election, was lionized on MSNBC, and then we found out he really didn’t resign. He just went on an extended coffee break but is back standing in the way of any federal voter fraud investigations.

Since Obama took office, there have essentially been two federal prosecutions of voter fraud, both because Trump-appointed U.S. Attorneys blasted by Pilger’s blocks. Both were for non-citizens voting in Texas and North Carolina.

Related: Georgia Launches ‘Ballot Harvesting’ Investigation

Recent elections have eroded the faith of many Americans that their vote will count. National Chairman of the Election Transparency Initiative and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued the following statement:


Some want to make it easy to cheat and hard to prove in our elections, others want to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat. We thank the legislature and Governor DeSantis for their leadership, and for their dogged pursuit of free and fair elections in the face of unprecedented headwinds. The epidemic of eroded public trust and confidence in our elections is very real and the concerns of normal Americans are profoundly legitimate, but through their determination Florida is helping ensure everyone’s voice is heard at the polls—and not diluted. The landmark reforms of 2021 and 2022 have gone a long way toward healing the concerns of millions of disenfranchised American voters, but these efforts wouldn’t be complete without the enactment of true voter I.D. protections for absentee ballots, and ensuring that every legal mail-in vote is counted fairly and openly.

The Election Transparency Initiative lauded the steps taken in the legislation, saying:

Importantly, S.B. 524 would further restrict private and foreign money from being selectively funneled into local elections to affect turnout, as well as setting standards for voter roll maintenance, citizenship verification, petition signature retention and verification, and the development of proposed voter I.D. protections for absentee ballots.

The legislation also prohibits ranked-choice voting and establishes a statewide office of Election Crimes and Security to “investigate election crimes and irregularities and make referrals for further legal action directly to a statewide prosecutor,” while increasing criminal penalties for ballot trafficking and acts of election fraud.

Polls show the majority of voters, including Black and Hispanic voters, as well as urban and independent voters, overwhelmingly support voter I.D. protections and want it to be easy to vote and hard to cheat.


In such an environment, it seems prudent for DeSantis to do something to ensure the faith of the people of Florida in their election system. One hopes the new investigation division will end up as busy as the Maytag repairman, just waiting for the phone to ring someday. One suspects they will be much busier than that.


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