Election integrity and security have become a relatively important issue for many Republican voters following the nationwide electoral fiasco in 2020, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), in conjunction with the state legislature, has taken steps to address those concerns going forward.
On Wednesday, Gov. DeSantis announced that he had appointed veteran elections official Peter Antonacci to head up the newly created Office of Election Crimes and Security, the Washington Examiner reported.
That office, located within Florida’s Department of State, will be tasked with leading investigations of alleged election crimes as well as providing oversight for the implementation of new security measures for election procedures.
DeSantis appoints the leader of a new office to investigate election crimes
“Peter Antonacci has dedicated his career to serving the state of Florida,” Gov. DeSantis said in a news release about his appointee. “I am confident he will lead the Office of Election Crimes and Security with integrity and ensure that Florida’s elections are the most secure in the nation.”
Florida Sec. of State Cord Byrd, who also serves as the state’s chief elections officer and will oversee Antonacci’s office, applauded the governor’s choice and said, “In Florida, our freedoms and rights are protected by the rule of law and our elections are no different. Judge Antonacci’s formidable knowledge of Florida election law and his experience as a Supervisor of Elections will ensure that our laws are enforced and that voters have confidence in our elections.”
As was noted by both DeSantis and Byrd, Antonacci has extensive experience in handling Florida elections and has served in several different important positions within the state, including under both Republican and Democratic leadership.
The new investigative office is part of broader election integrity measures
The new Office of Election Crimes and Security was just recently established in April after Gov. DeSantis signed into law a bill passed by the Senate that included several measures intended to strengthen the integrity of the state’s election processes.
In addition to the creation of the special office dedicated to investigating alleged election crimes, the bill also increased penalties for election law violations, strengthened voter ID requirements, and mandated that voter rolls be reviewed and updated on an annual basis to guard against potential fraudulent voting.
In an allusion to Florida’s centrality in the craziness following the 2000 election, DeSantis said at the signing ceremony, “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.”
“We need to do more to ensure our elections remain secure,” the governor added at that time. “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.”
Democrats predictably cry foul
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that the new Office of Election Crimes and Security cost $3.7 million and will be comprised of about 15 employees of the Department of State who will receive and follow up on tips of alleged election law violations and work in coordination with 10 employees of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who will be tasked with further investigation of those allegations if necessary.
Of course, Democrats in Florida’s legislature and election offices have cried foul over the new office, in part dismissing it as unnecessary due to exceptionally low rates of reported election crimes but also over concerns that the office will somehow be weaponized against Democratic election activists and others viewed as opponents of the governor.