Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday proposed creating a statewide office that would concentrate exclusively on investigating and prosecuting election crimes in the state, News4Jax reported.
DeSantis, a Republican, explained that the office would have law enforcement officers, investigators and a statewide prosecutor to carry out its mission.
''What will happen is if someone's ballot harvesting, you report it to these people and this is their sole job,'' DeSantis said at a news conference in West Palm Beach. ''There'll be specialists, they're going to understand what's legal, what's not legal, they're going to have the ability to investigate any crimes involving the election, and I think that's going to be something that's very, very important.''
DeSantis said that ''I guarantee you this: The first person that gets caught, no one is going to want to do it again after that,'' Politico reported.
In addition, DeSantis announced ''election integrity reform'' proposals that will be discussed in the state Legislature in January, according to News4Jax.
These include changing ballot harvesting from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, requiring timelines for supervisors of elections to clean the voter rolls of ineligible voters, and ''prohibit unsecure, haphazard drop box locations in Florida.''
The governor made the proposals despite previously praising Florida's elections last year as a smooth operation and rejecting calls by other Republicans for an audit.
For this reason, critics have labeled the governor's attempts this year to tighten voting laws as politically motivated, especially since he is running for reelection next year and is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate.
The new proposals by DeSantis come a few months after he persuaded state legislators to pass a law that adds restrictions on the collection of mail-in ballots.
Civil rights and voting rights groups have filed federal lawsuits asserting that the new restrictions unfairly discriminate against older voters, those with disabilities and minority voters.
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