In a stop-the-presses news release issued this evening, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced the arrest of 17 people for voter fraud during the primary and general elections of 2020.
The general election drew 11.145 million voters, the primary drew 3.896 million, for a combined total of 15.041 million votes cast. The 17 arrests means that Florida had an astoundingly low rate of fraud of precisely 0.000001%. That’s not particularly surprising to elections observers: fraud in American elections is statistically non-existent, fabrications and conspiracy theories to the contrary. A former president who lost by 7 million votes to this day claims that his election was “stolen.”
The arrests were in just five counties–three in Miami-Dade, three in Broward, three in Palm Beach, three in Orange, six in Hillsborough, and none in Florida’s 62 other counties, including Flagler. It is not clear how the 17 arrested broke down between Republican, Democrats and Independents.
The 17 arrested were obviously not part of an organized effort. Rather, they were either convicted murderers or convicted sex offenders. While 64 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 to restore felons’ right to vote after they have served their sentence and paid their fines, the amendment made an exception for two categories of crimes: murders and felony sex offenses. The almost infinitesimal number of individuals who slip through is surprising only to the extent that more fall-through-the-cracks voters might have been expected but for the vigilance of supervisors of elections.
Ironically, the 17 arrested in Florida–the nation’s third-most populous state–is the identical number of individuals arrested in Texas–the nation’s second-most populous state–by that state’s “election integrity unit” in 2020.
Still, the release today seemed to take a more alarmist view. “In 2020, Florida ran an efficient, transparent election that avoided the major problems we saw in other states. At the same time, the election was not perfect, which is why we continue our efforts to ensure the integrity of our elections,” Gov. Ron DeSantis was quoted as saying. “Our new election crimes office has sprung into action to hold individuals accountable for voter fraud. Today’s actions send a clear signal to those who are thinking about ballot harvesting or fraudulently voting. If you commit an elections crime, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The “election crime office” is one of a spate of new such policing forces established particularly in Republican, ostensibly fiscally conservative states, to tackle, at significant cost to taxpayers, essentially non-existent voter fraud. The election policing unit is, in fact, only a small part of the effort to find ghost fraud. The multi-county investigation was initiated in conjunction with the Florida Department of State and Office of Statewide Prosecution, the FDLE’s release stated.
State officials rallied around DeSantis’s momentous achievement. “Today is about our honest, hardworking and law-abiding Floridians,” said FDLE Acting Commissioner Mark Glass. “In Florida, your vote matters. To that end, we will do everything in our power to ensure those who cannot legally vote never cast a ballot.”
“I am grateful to Governor DeSantis for establishing the Office of Election Crimes and Security, and we are off to a great start at eliminating election fraud in our elections,” said Secretary of State and Chief Election Officer Cord Byrd. “These arrests put those who have no regard for the integrity our elections on notice and will ensure integrity in the voting process.”
Those arrested face third-degree felony charges of making a “false affirmation” and of voting as an unqualified elector. A few more arrests may be expected, but not enough to change the statistical proportions of voter fraud in the state.