Florida lawmakers on Wednesday passed voting law legislation that would create the nation's first police force dedicated to pursuing election crimes, The Washington Post reported.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., had proposed the plan for an elections police force, though the governor's version was watered down before the bill was approved, the Post said.
DeSantis requested nearly $6 million to hire 52 people, including sworn officers, to investigate alleged violations of elections laws. Instead, the GOP-led House and Senate gave him nearly $2.5 million for the new Office of Election Crimes and Security.
The new agency's staff of 25 will be part of the Department of State, which answers to the governor.
DeSantis, considered a contender for the Republican national ticket in 2024, has indicated he will sign the measure into law.
"The whole point of this bill is to deter people from committing fraud," state Rep. Daniel Perez, R-Miami-Dade, said during debate on the bill this week, the Post reported. "We're trying to stop the bad actors."
State law currently allows the governor to appoint officers to investigate violations of election law but does not require him to do so.
The legislation follows a voting law — approved by Florida's GOP-controlled legislature and signed by DeSantis last year — that placed new rules on ballot drop boxes and required a driver's license number, state ID number or last four digits of a Social Security number to request a mail ballot.
The new bill makes "ballot harvesting" a felony, punishable with a fine of up to $50,000 and five years in prison. The 2021 law made it a misdemeanor for anyone to have more than two ballots, which impacts efforts at churches and community centers to have volunteers gather ballots and deposit them at an elections office or in a drop box.
The new bill also requires elections supervisors to cull voter rolls annually instead of every two years, and changes the name of drop boxes to "secure ballot intake stations."
Last year's voting law, which limits the number of ballot drop boxes and the times they can be available, is being contested in federal court in Tallahassee, Florida.
Nearly 11 million Floridians cast ballots for president in 2020. The Department of State received 262 election-fraud complaint forms that year and referred 75 to law enforcement or prosecutors, the Post reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.