Long-time figure in Florida government Peter Antonacci has been tapped to lead Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new election-crime investigation team.
DeSantis announced the Antonacci appointment through a press release on Wednesday. He will direct of the new Office of Election Crimes and Security under the Department of State, reporting to Secretary of State Cord Byrd.
The Legislature voted this year to create the office at DeSantis’ urging in a Republican-led push to ensure “voting integrity” despite the overall agreement that the 2020 election ran smoothly in Florida.
The law also imposes felony penalties for “ballot harvesting,” or delivering mail-in-ballots for multiple non-family members, as well as other restrictions.
Antonacci has had a decades-long history in Florida politics in a multitude of roles. The Phoenix previously reported that “governors since Bob Graham in the 1980s have turned to him for sensitive jobs.” These have included:
- Director and chief judge of the Division of Administrative Hearings;
- Broward County Elections Supervisor in 2018;
- General counsel to former Gov. Rick Scott;
- Deputy state attorney general under former Attorney General Bob Butterworth;
- State attorney in Palm Beach County.
Leon Supervisor of Election Mark Earley said in a written statement distributed by the governor’s office that he trusts Antonacci “will serve the people of Florida with an even hand to ensure the continued fairness and sanctity of our elections process,” and that he “understands the complexities of election law and the need for a reserved and judicious application of the power this new office wields.”
Earley told the Phoenix that Antonacci was a “good choice” but that he remains skeptical about how the new elections investigation office could be misused.
“Time will tell how the office evolves,” said Earley, who also serves as the president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections.
“We have some concerns, seeing how other states have prosecuted, and there’s not a lot of checks on what this office can do,” Earley said.
Earley said that preexisting election statutes permit challenges to the eligibility of a voter, but that filing a frivolous challenge and complaint against a voter is a crime.
“But there’s no similar language in the powers of investigation and things like that area of statute with regards to this office,” he said. “It’s concerning to me because, potentially, this could be used to intimidate voters — potentially.”
Early did say that he worked with Antonacci before and that “he did a good job as a supervisor of Broward County in the 2020 election.”
“I have high regard for Pete Antonacci, and I think he’s, probably, of all the choices that were out there, one of the better choices available,” Earley said. “I don’t know who was being considered, but I think Pete’s, hopefully, on the right track here with this and will do it well.”
Pans from Fried
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination to run against DeSantis for governor, called the appointment “absurd” in a campaign email.
“Peter Antonacci is a Federalist Society darling. His appointment by DeSantis is purely political,” Fried said in a written statement. “We already have fraud laws on the books that should be enforced. What we need is real nonpartisan election reform.”
The Federalist Society is a conservative organization that advocates for so-called “originalist” interpretations of the U.S. Constitution and other conservative policies. Many of DeSantis’s appointments have ties to the organization.
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix
You got the headline wrong, should read “Elections Gestapo”.
Art G Schwartz says
Just what problem does this expenditure solve?
Pierre Tristam says
You haven’t heard? John Breckinridge really won the 1860 election but for the fraud (you know, all those slaves shipped in to Illinois and New York and all those un-American states to vote Lincoln then shipped back on the Dredd Scott Express). Florida, which went Breckinridge (back when Southern Democrats were today’s embryonic Qanon), is still sore about that.
I have no respect for Peter Antonacci. He is accepting a job whose sole purpose is to ensure DeSantis’ re-election, whether or not he receives the most votes. That makes him an accomplice to a fraud.
Interesting to hear the ballyhooing. Why, when a policy or law is proposed to shore up and protect elections, there’s dread and fear in the push back from Democrats? Why is it, when the subject is voting, the Democrats are quick to point out there are enough laws already on the books, yet let the subject be guns, with the same argument offered by Conservatives, the Democrats become apoplectic? The only people who hate burglar alarms, are burglars.
Well, sir, it is because, as in your offered comparison, a burglar alarm is supposed to catch the burglar, NOT the one who lives or works there. Exactly what was the perceived election crime that this partisan Deathsantis hack is supposed to police? Didn’t the gov’s own administration proudly say very publicly that Florida’s 2020 presidential election was the most secure election in the state’s history? YES, they did. Was any evidence at all of the type of widespread fraud that might have changed the election results found here in FL? Of course not. Is there any reason at all for creating this election police? Yes, there is and it is simply to stoke further doubt in the minds of conservatives that believe the big lie that somehow, somewhere, under some rock, despite any evidence to the contrary, that FL needs to further tighten a stranglehold on the election process, in other words, by suppression of certain votes, to ensure that voters keep electing only republicans to office, by hook or by crook. Had there been ANY evidence at all to support such a scheme, it certainly would have made headlines and been made public from the start, but there is not one bit of evidence that supports this election police fiasco because it is just a superficial and bald faced attempt to further the suppression of minority votes in this state to keep Deathsantis and his unethical minions in power… pure and simple.