Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appears to be using the recently created Office of Election Crimes and Security to make questionable and publicly humiliating arrests of individuals for election fraud, raising concerns about whether he is using government resources to advance debunked election fraud conspiracy theories. Despite there being no evidence that voter fraud was significant enough to alter the 2020 election, the office was created in April 2022 to investigate election law violations. The August 18, 2022 arrests targeted 20 individuals charged with committing election fraud—a third-degree felony—in the 2020 election, according to a press release.
CREW has submitted a request for information on communications between the Florida Department of State, the Division of Elections and the Office of Election Crimes and Security on the processes and responsibilities for determining voter eligibility in FL as well as information on investigations and arrests, including but not limited to those arrested in August. CREW is also requesting records that identify the number of cases the Office of Election Crimes and Security is currently investigating and has closed as well as the total amount of state funds expended by this office.
Whether these arrests were in part a political stunt for DeSantis to demonstrate his allegiance to Trump and continue to advance the Big Lie is unclear, given conflicting accounts of the arrests. Reporting 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. To add to the confusion, those arrested had also submitted voter registration applications that were verified by the state which would appear to validate their right to vote—however, the governor’s office and the Office of Election Crimes and Security have claimed that the responsibility for verifying voter eligibility fell on local election officials and individuals, raising questions about how people are supposed to verify their voter eligibility if they cannot trust the state.
The requested records will clarify the processes through which voter eligibility in Florida is determined and how voter fraud is investigated by the Office of Election Crimes and Security, as well as provide insight into whether proper processes were followed in this case that has been highlighted by Governor DeSantis. Given the discrepancies between the office’s public statement and news reports covering the arrests, the public should know more about how this office is run and the protocols it is using.