Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed an election integrity bill into law to strengthen and increase confidence in the state’s elections.

According to a summary handout of the bill (SB 524) released by the governor’s office, the law takes five steps to increase election security in the Sunshine State. The bill:

  • Creates an Office of Election Crimes and Security to investigate allegations of voter fraud.
  • Increases the penalty for ballot harvesting from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine and up to five years probation.
  • Requires the Department of State to strengthen ID requirements for mail-in ballots.
  • Requires supervisors of elections to check voter rolls every year for ineligible voters.
  • Broadens the prohibition of election supervisors from receiving “Zuckerbucks.”

The term “ballot harvesting” refers to the practice of an individual or third-party gathering and submitting already completed absentee or mail-in ballots. The practice opens up elections to voter fraud, and is legal in some states.

The term “Zuckerbucks” refers to money given by the Center for Technology and Civic Life (which is funded by Mark Zuckerberg to the tune of $350 million) to various election departments during the 2020 presidential campaign.

SB 524 passed the Florida state Senate on March 4, 2022, in a 24-14 vote. Twenty-three Republican members voted in favor of the bill along with one Democrat, while 13 Democrats voted against it as did one Republican.

The legislation then passed the Florida state House of Representatives along party lines in a 76-41 vote.

“Twenty years ago, nobody thought Florida was a prime example of how to conduct elections, but we have become a national leader by running the most secure elections in the country,” Governor Ron DeSantis said in a press release.

“We need to do more to ensure our elections remain secure. We have ended ballot harvesting, stopped drop boxes and the mass mailing of ballots, and banned Zuckerbucks, and this bill will give us more resources to make sure bad actors are held accountable.”

In democratic forms of government, it is vital for individuals to have confidence in their elections systems, and to know that their voice can be heard free of manipulation and fraud.

Voting is a kind of democratic pressure release valve, where individuals can go to nonviolently express their unhappiness with the direction of the nation and truly impact and change its direction.

But when confidence in the system is lost, as happened for many people after both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, the people lose hope that change is possible.

The potentially violent consequences of that hopelessness can be frightening.

That’s one reason secure elections are a necessary ingredient to a well-functioning and self-governing republic.

Hopefully more states will follow Florida’s lead, secure their elections, and give their citizens confidence that their voice and their vote matters.

Related articles and resources:

Florida Governor Unveils Election Integrity Proposal to Secure Voting Process

Are You Registered To Vote? If Not, Today is the Day to Do It.

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