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Gov. Ron DeSantis during a September press conference in Lakeland, Florida. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced plans Wednesday to form a statewide law enforcement agency to investigate election crimes as part of a raft of measures on voting laws to be considered at next year's legislative session.

Why it matters: DeSantis used his news conference on Wednesday to echo the kinds of baseless claims former President Trump has made on voter fraud, without citing evidence and despite the fact that such instances are rare in the U.S.

Details: Per a statement from the governor's office, DeSantis is calling on the legislature to:

  • Establish an Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State to investigate election crimes and fraud;
  • Elevate the crime of ballot harvesting to a third-degree felony, which the governor's offices said was to recognize that "this offense is a serious attack on democracy;"
  • Require timelines for supervisors of elections to clean the voter rolls of ineligible voters; and
  • Prohibit unsecure, "haphazard drop box locations" in Florida.

What they're saying: "There'll be people, if you see someone ballot harvesting, you know, what do you do? If you call into the election office, a lot of times they don’t do anything," DeSantis said at his news conference.

  • "If you know that, there’s, you know, in Florida, it's Constitutionally mandated, only citizens are allowed to vote in Florida, and yet you see examples of people, they’ll even check they’re not citizens, and they’ll still be given ballots," he added, without giving any examples to back up his claims.
  • Secretary of State Laurel Lee said in an emailed statement that Florida officials had conducted pre- and post-elections audits and the 2020 election was "accurate, transparent, and conducted in compliance" with state law. 

Of note: When asked for examples of voter fraud in the state, DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw said in an emailed statement that the governor was taking "proactive steps to correct any identified vulnerabilities in Florida’s election administration before those vulnerabilities can be exploited to subvert our democratic institutions."

  • "Merely waiting for bad actors to exploit known vulnerabilities in an election, and then attempting to address voter fraud or electoral violations after the fact, is not an effective strategy for a state government to assure the public that every legal vote will count in accordance with the law," Pushaw said.
  • Pushaw directed Axios to Florida's Department of State or Attorney General’s office for specific reports of voter fraud. Representatives for those departments did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Lee and Pushaw.

Go deeper

Supreme Court agrees to hear North Carolina voter ID law case

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a case on whether Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have the right to defend the state's photo identification voter law.

State of play: The North Carolina state legislature had submitted a request to have the court review a decision from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that said lawmakers could not intervene in a lawsuit brought by the NAACP against the state's voter ID law.

Updated 50 mins ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.

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