“The offense was previously a misdemeanor in the state under a 2021 law. But the more serious classification in the new legislation will make it punishable with a fine of up to $50,000 and five years in prison, The Washington Post reported. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has indicated he will sign the bill into law,” Newsweek reported.
“The ballot felony is just one part of a bill that aims to reform certain elements of Florida elections. The legislation would also establish a first-of-its-kind elections police force for the U.S., which has raised concerns about its possible impact on voters,” the report added.
“The change also added a fine to organizations if a person collecting voter applications on its behalf changes someone’s party affiliation without consent. The fine is $1,000 per altered application,” Florida Politics reported.
The election reform bill is heading to DeSantis’ desk and he’s expected to sign it.
It passed the Senate on March 4 by a vote of 24 to 14 and passed the House on March 9 by a vote of 76 to 41.
Of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Debbie Mayfield said, “Florida leads the nation in election integrity because we have taken a proactive approach to address and anticipating any election issues. To ensure Florida remains a national model for free and fair elections, we established a clear framework to investigate elections violations, improved voter roll maintenance, continued our commitment to securing vote-by-mail ballots, and increased and expanded penalties for those who illegally interfere in our elections.”
Florida Republican Rep. Daniel Perez argued for stronger protections to increase voters’ confidence in the election system.
“The future votes are too important to fall to fraud or manipulation simply because we are too busy patting ourselves on the back for past success,” Perez said.
Ron DeSantis Poll
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In a November press release, DeSantis announced his intention to propose the legislation, saying the measures were aimed at bolstering “election integrity” in the state.
“Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced a new legislative proposal to further strengthen Florida’s election integrity. This proposed legislation will be addressed in the upcoming 2022 Legislative Session, which begins in January,” the press release stated.
“We are excited to say that next legislative session we are proposing another package of election integrity reforms that will make Florida the number one state for elections. I am excited that with this legislation, our state will be able to enforce election violations, combat voter fraud, and make sure violators are held accountable. If potential violators know they will be held accountable, they will be much less likely to engage in improper conduct in the first place,” DeSantis said.
At the event, DeSantis urged the Legislature to take four steps to safeguard elections in Florida:
–Establish an Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State to investigate election crimes and fraud;
–Elevate the crime of ballot harvesting to a third-degree felony, recognizing that this offense is a serious attack on democracy;
–Require timelines for supervisors of elections to clean the voter rolls of ineligible voters;
–Prohibit unsecure, haphazard drop box locations in Florida.
“The 2022 legislative proposal builds on election integrity legislation signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis in May 2021 through Senate Bill 90. In 2021, Governor DeSantis worked with the Florida Legislature to strengthen voter identification, prohibit the mass mailing of ballots, ban ballot harvesting and prohibit private money (Zuckerbucks) from influencing elections in our state,” the press release stated.