Leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, top officials in Florida and Virginia created so-called election security offices that have raised concerns about state-sanctioned advancement of debunked election fraud conspiracy theories. On April 25, 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 524, which created the Office of Election Crimes and Security (OECS) to investigate election law violations, and which has since made headlines for publicly humiliating and legally questionable mass arrests. On September 9, 2022, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced the creation of a similar Election Integrity Unit, despite there being minimal evidence of voter fraud in both states.
CREW, along with the ACLU FL and ACLU VA, respectively, have requested all communications between Florida’s OECS and DeSantis’s office and all records between Virginia’s Election Integrity Unit and the Miyares’s office. CREW has also requested all communications between the task forces and any nongovernmental entity or individual relating to election integrity issues. Finally, CREW has requested any records regarding any threats or tips reported to these task forces and what actions were taken to address them.
On August 18, 2022, Florida’s OECS, along with Governor DeSantis and law enforcement, announced the arrest of 20 individuals charged with election fraud, a third-degree felony. Reporting soon revealed that many of these individuals had been led to believe by election officials and voter registration groups that they were eligible to vote, and some had received voter registration cards from government agencies. CREW previously requested records from the OECS to investigate these reports. On October 21, 2022, a judge in Miami found the statewide prosecutor lacked the jurisdiction to prosecute these cases. The records requested will provide transparency about how these election integrity units and law enforcement are pursuing these and other voter fraud cases.
The requested records also will shed light on who or what motivated the Florida and Virginia governments to create election integrity units despite a lack of evidence of voter fraud, as well as the composition and activities of the units. Further, records will provide transparency on the units’ operations, areas of work, and potential collaboration with government offices and non-governmental groups and individuals.