Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill (SB) 524 at Rookies Sports Bar and Grill in Spring Hill on Monday, April 25, 2022. “An act relating to election administration,” amends several Florida Statutes regarding elections and voting procedures.
DeSantis compared Florida with some states that take up to eight days to count votes after Election Day. “When you compare us with some of those states, we obviously did a better job, but there is a lot that needs to be addressed… to make sure we have transparent, fair elections with integrity.”
Absentee ballots will still be available, but legislation passed in 2021 requires identification to be produced. Unsolicited ballots are prohibited as is ballot harvesting, which is the practice of the collection of absentee ballots by unauthorized individuals or agencies. Ballot harvesting was banned in 2021 (as a first-degree misdemeanor), however, is now a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and up to five years probation.
Ballot drop boxes were banned in 2021, but that decision is pending an appeal that DeSantis is confident will stand.
The bill also establishes the Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State. Before now, there was not a dedicated office to investigate all election crimes in Florida. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement received positions and resources in this year’s budget to support the criminal investigation of election crimes in partnership with the Office of Election Crimes and Security.
Additionally, the bill requires the supervisor of elections to conduct annual voter list maintenance to combat fraudulent voting.
The Department of State is now required to recommend a plan on how to strengthen voter ID requirements for mail-in ballots. They will need to have draft legislation ready for any necessary statutory changes by Feb. 1, 2023. They will determine how to use the Florida Driver’s License number, Florida ID card number, or Social Security number to confirm the identity of every voter returning a vote-by-mail ballot.
“And finally,” DeSantis said, “we’ve banned ‘Zuckerbucks’.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has donated millions to local election offices. “Then they bring their people in, they would do ballot harvesting, they would do mass mail ballots and effectively these private groups were commandeering the actual machinery of the elections,” DeSantis said.
The governor was referring to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a collaboration with Zuckerberg’s wife Priscilla, who gave between $350 – $400 million to several election departments during the 2020 election, allegedly to assist them during irregularities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Florida leads the nation in free and fair elections because Governor DeSantis and the Legislature have taken a proactive approach to address any issues,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson. “Voter confidence in the integrity of our elections is essential to maintaining a democratic form of government, and I am grateful to Governor DeSantis for making election integrity in this state a focus of his administration. When people and organizations interfere with Florida elections, there are consequences.”