TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Last year, Governor DeSantis signed Senate Bill 524, which established the Office of Election Crimes and Security to be solely dedicated to investigating election law violations. Today, Governor Ron DeSantis highlighted the major accomplishments of the Office of Election Crimes and Security (OECS) during its first year.
“We have taken bold steps to ensure Florida is the national leader in conducting fair and secure elections,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Since the formation of the Office of Election Crimes and Security, we have held illegal voters and our election officials accountable, cracked down on ballot harvesting, and strengthened ID requirements for mail-in ballots. In Florida, we will not allow anyone to circumvent the will of the people or the law.”
“I commend Governor Ron DeSantis for his leadership in ensuring that Florida conducts elections with the highest degree of integrity, security, and efficiency,” said Florida Secretary of State and Chief Election Officer Cord Byrd. “Our goal at the Department of State is to diligently enforce and uphold our laws and assure Florida voters that our elections are held to the highest standard. With the addition of the Office of Election Crimes and Security, our staff remains dedicated to holding bad actors accountable and implementing policies that continue to strengthen our election system.”
Highlights from the Office of Election Crimes and Security under Governor DeSantis’ leadership include:
- The OECS has made 1,479 criminal referrals to law enforcement. Thirteen criminal referrals have led to felony convictions. Thirty-two criminal referrals have led to arrests or warrants being issued. Of the two election cases that have gone to a jury trial, both have resulted in felony convictions.
- In partnership with the Florida Office of the Attorney General and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), on August 18, 2022, the OECS announced the arrest of 20 individuals previously convicted of felony sex offenses or murder who unlawfully registered to vote and then voted in the 2020 General Election.
- During the final months of 2022, with the help of the local State Attorney Offices in Escambia and Duval County, law enforcement made 4 arrests based on additional OECS criminal referrals.
- In October 2022, FDLE announced the arrest in Broward County of an individual referred to law enforcement by the OECS. The defendant is alleged to be an illegal alien and a ten-time convicted felon who voted under an alias in Broward County’s U.S. Congressional District 20 Special Election (Primary and General). The individual is alleged to have registered to vote using a counterfeit birth certificate from New York City.
- FDLE announced the arrest in Palm Beach County of an individual referred to law enforcement by the OECS in November 2022. The defendant is alleged to have voted in the 2020 Primary and General Elections in both Florida and Alaska. The investigation revealed a pattern of double voting by this individual in both states in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
- In December 2022, FDLE announced the arrest in Jackson County of an individual for the misuse of voter information and fraudulent submissions related to constitutional initiative petitions.
- In March 2023, FDLE announced the arrest in Marion County of an individual for casting more than one ballot in an election. In a separate case, another individual was arrested in Okaloosa County for voting in 2022 while serving probation for a 2022 felony DUI conviction.
- To date, the OECS has reviewed more than 3,500 Third Party Voter Registration Organizations (3PVROs) registrations, fined 39 organizations more than $100,000, and made 27 criminal referrals of individuals or 3rd party registration organizations to law enforcement.
- On April 23, 2023, Secretary of State Cord Byrd announced the OECS secured payments of civil fines in the amount of $34,400.00 against Hard Knocks Strategies, LLC, a third-party voter registration organization, for repeated violations of third-party voter registration laws contained in section 97.0575, Florida Statutes (Fla. Stat.). Hard Knocks Strategies was fined an additional $12,200.00 for recent violations of 97.0575, Fla. Stat.
- The OECS reviewed 2,868 voter registration applications collected by Hard Knocks Strategies, LLC’s, agents, that were submitted to election officials after the statutory deadline. Hard Knocks Strategies, LLC also repeatedly turned in registrations to the incorrect county supervisors of elections, and in one instance, submitted 21 Florida voter registrations presumed to be from Texas residents.
- The OECS’ announcement of these fines coincides with a series of arrests in Charlotte and Lee counties of Hard Knocks Strategies’ voter registration collection agents who had submitted a large number of fraudulent voter registration applications from 2021-2022. These potential fraudulent registrations were first reported by Lee County Supervisor of Elections’ office to the Florida Department of State and the Office of the State Attorney (SAO), 20th Judicial Circuit. The SAO criminal investigation implicated seven employees of Hard Knocks Strategies who had submitted to election officials at least 58 fraudulent voter registration applications using the personal identification of others without their consent.
- In May 2023, FDLE announced the arrest of two individuals on voting fraud charges. One individual from West Palm Beach was charged with one count of false affirmation in connection with an election and two charges of voting by unqualified elector, all third-degree felonies. The other individual from Palm Beach Gardens was charged with one count of false affirmation in connection with an election and one count of voting as an unqualified elector, both third-degree felonies.
For more information on the Office of Election Crimes and Security, view the latest report here.