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What will Florida’s voter fraud agents do with all that free time? | Column
The governor announced $6 million to hire 52 investigators to look into the state’s (nearly non-existent) voter fraud.
“I Voted” stickers at a St. Petersburg precinct last year.
“I Voted” stickers at a St. Petersburg precinct last year. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 6|Updated Jan. 7

In this week’s exciting episode of “Johnny Danger — Voter Fraud Special Agent,” we find our hero hot on the trail of ballot brigands.

Times Columnist Dan Ruth.
Times Columnist Dan Ruth. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

Get ready for heated gun battles, careening car chases, plenty of fistfights and of course, sex, lots and lots and lots of sex.

Well, not exactly, but at least we got you to the third paragraph of what promises to be one of the most boring, least productive jobs in state government, aside from being the poor chump in charge of keeping Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis from making a complete buffoon of himself. It is thankless work.

It seems like a million years ago, but it was only just over a year ago when DeSantis, who seems to believe the eventual road to the White House runs through “The Twilight Zone,” preened that Florida’s elections served as a gold standard for accuracy and fairness free of any widespread glitches or fraud.

And then he set about turning that gold into democratic dross.

DeSantis already has signed into law new provisions limiting the use of drop boxes for ballots, while also making it more difficult to obtain an absentee ballot. And it limits who can collect and drop off ballots.

And since other states around the nation are getting ready to implement even more draconian measures to limit the ability for one to cast a ballot, it is not unreasonable to assume by the time the Florida Legislature concludes its 2022 session, Florida will be the envy of Belarus when it comes to voter suppression.

Doesn’t all of this put a new spin on that old axiom: freedom isn’t free — especially in the hands of an aspiring banana republic governor.

In recent days DeSantis has announced the creation of the Office of Election Crime and Security. At last, the perfect employment opportunity for Maynard G. Krebs. WORK!?!?

Or think of it this way: Ron DeSantis, who claims to be a fiscal conservative, wants to spend $6 million to fund an elite force of 52 thumb-twiddlers in five statewide field offices. Do you get the sneaking feeling lunch hour will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.?

Oh sure, it’s not as if there wasn’t treachery afoot in the 2020 election. In The Villages, which makes “The Stepford Wives” look like Woodstock, four scofflaws (ahem, two Republican and two no party affiliation) have been charged with voting twice. This is not exactly a crime wave hatched by The Joker.

Indeed statewide only 75 voter fraud complaints were referred to law enforcement. Seventy-five out of 18.1 million ballots cast in Florida in 2020. Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren noted his office received only four referrals for election-rated crimes — over the past decade. And yet DeSantis wants to create a Delta Force of voter fraud to crack down on a problem that doesn’t exist. And his crowd of Republicans think President Joe Biden is cognitively impaired?

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Who has really gone more over the edge than Col. Kurtz here?

Recently the Associated Press noted that out of the 25.5 million ballots cast in the contested states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania, only 475 ballots could be considered potentially fraudulently, hardly anywhere near enough to flip those states to the crybaby-in-chief Donald Trump.

Oddly enough, while DeSantis is running around claiming to be the J. Edgar Hoover of elections, he has been strangely mum about doing much of anything about the Republican use of “ghost” candidates to flip two Florida Senate seats to Republican candidates. Very naughty. Not very nice and illegal, too.

But what does the Eliot Ness of elections have to say about such GOP mischief? Hummana, hummana, hummana, doesn’t quite count.

Voter fraud always has been a crime in Florida. Local law enforcement agencies, and presumably even the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (if needed) have all the legal tools at their disposal to prosecute those very rare cases where somebody channeled their inner Tammany Hall to cast a bonus ballot.

This could get out of hand.

Perhaps DeSantis will also create a special investigative unit to go after moonshiners, serial overdue library book crooks and of course, the most fiendish of them all — criminal masterminds who go around ripping off mattress tags without so much a twinge of remorse.

So why is DeSantis pursuing this phantom crusade to ferret out — nothing?

What is there to say, but: “Forget it Jake, it’s Tallahasseetown.”

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