The Republican-controlled Florida legislature passed a bill on Wednesday that would create a special elections police force meant to monitor elections at the behest of far right Gov. Ron DeSantis, who says that he will sign it into law.
The bill would establish an Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State, which is overseen by DeSantis. The 25-person office would allow DeSantis to appoint 10 police officers to investigate supposed election crimes — despite the fact that experts have repeatedly proven that election fraud doesn’t exist at a scale that would even begin to approach affecting election results.
Appointing police officers to monitor elections to probe for non-existent voter fraud is nakedly fascist. This move is indicative of the fact that the U.S. is in fascism’s “legal phase,” as fascism scholar Jason Stanley noted in The Guardian late last year.
The bill is the most extreme yet in Republicans’ push to suppress voters en masse, and voting rights advocates say that it will disproportionately affect Black voters.
“The governor’s personal goon force will exist to do only one thing: intimidate Black voters,” Walter Shaub, senior ethics fellow for the Project on Government Oversight, said on Twitter.
“It’s also gonna be a felony to take your sick grandma’s ballot to a drop box for her, unless you strap her in a cart and wheel her down there with you,” Shaub continued, referencing the fact that the bill makes it a felony for a voter to bring other people’s ballots to a dropoff location, which would disproportionately affect disabled or elderly people. The punishment for that is a hefty fine of up to $50,000 and five years in prison.
Even before Republicans began passing exceedingly punitive voter suppression laws, Black voters were already punished harshly and disproportionately for supposed election fraud, often in cases where they had just made a simple mistake. Black people are also disproportionately the target of police violence and surveillance.
Republicans claim — as they have for over a year as they pass dozens of voter suppression bills across the country — that the new bill is about election integrity. But the laws are actually an extreme reaction to former President Donald Trump’s loss in 2020, and an attempt to give Republican lawmakers more control over election results in the future.
Republicans haven’t provided any evidence that widespread voter fraud is a legitimate issue. Though increased voter suppression laws from Republicans have already alarmed voting rights advocates, the current bill is one of the starkest signs yet that the GOP is openly embracing authoritarianism.
“Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking Orwell’s 1984 and running with it into a despotic dystopia of his own feverish imagining with his hoped-for, first-in-the-nation creation of an Office of Election Crimes and Security to ensure ‘elections are conducted in accordance with the rule of law,’ though, in fact, they already are,” wrote Abby Zimet for Common Dreams.
The blatant voter suppression is just one example of the right’s increasing embrace of facism; as Henry Giroux noted for Truthout in November, DeSantis and the GOP’s attacks on education, and their efforts to punish educators for teaching about race, LGBTQ issues, and diversity, are also a sign of rising fascism on the right.
Republicans’ attacks on public and higher education are “closely aligned to a fascist politics that despises anyone who holds power accountable and sees as an enemy anyone who fosters liberating forms of social change or attempts to resist the right wing’s politics of falsehoods and erasure,” Giroux wrote.
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