Republicans in several states are promoting election police as a new set of methods and programmes to combat the fictitious problem of voter fraud.
Republicans in Florida, Georgia, and Texas have enacted new policies and laws that have resulted in the creation of costly new infrastructure and enforcement mechanisms to combat what they claim is voter fraud, despite the fact that there is no evidence that voter fraud is a remotely serious problem in our democracy or that additional surveillance is required.
These programmes are, at best, inefficient. However, they may deter voters from entering the voting booth for fear of being severely fined if they make a mistake in casting their ballot. In the long run, gimmicky voter fraud enforcement bureaucracies may contribute to burgeoning authoritarian attitudes on the right by providing credence to the notion that Democratic election victories should be viewed with mistrust.
The new trend demonstrates how the GOP’s election integrity campaign stunts are taking on a life of their own. Former President Donald Trump’s disinformation campaign about the 2020 election being rigged has not only established long-lasting false narratives about an unsecure voting system, but it has also prompted the establishment of a slew of new organisations to address a non-existent problem.
The following are some of the most recent developments:
- The Florida Legislature established a law enforcement organisation, known colloquially as the election police, last week to address what Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans have proclaimed an urgent problem: the about 0.000677 percent of voters accused of voter fraud.
- In Georgia, Republicans in the House passed legislation on Tuesday giving police officers expanded authority to investigate suspicions of election-related crimes.
- In Texas, the Republican attorney general has already established a “election integrity team” whose main mission is to investigate fraudulent voting.
One of the most obvious concerns is that these initiatives necessitate state governments investing money, staff, and institutional resources in order to solve a phantom problem. Last year, Texas’ election fraud crackdown measures cost more than $2 million and 20,000 hours of labour to resolve three cases and launch seven new ones. Such resources would be far better spent on an issue that exists or threatens our democracy.
The Florida Legislature has passed legislation to establish a police unit to investigate voter fraud.
Voting rights groups are also concerned that increased emphasis on harsh enforcement may reduce voter turnout. Will the extremely rare occurrences of fraud, which occur unintentionally a substantial amount of the time, be punished with far harsher penalties? For example, if voters are unsure where they are registered to vote or if they are eligible to register to vote because they have recently moved or are between addresses, the threat of increased penalties may persuade some that voting is not worth the effort. There is reason to believe that these issues are more likely to deter voters with lower resources and from marginalised areas, because they have less information as voters and can’t afford to face financial penalties.
There are also concerns concerning the precise scope and power of these new units. “I honestly believe we have a lot of protocols in place where these things can be addressed, and I’m concerned that we’re putting in place a police force with no guardrails,” Florida state Sen. Lori Berman, a Democrat, said of her state’s new election police unit. “We don’t know who can launch the investigation, there’s nothing to stop it from being used to target specific groups, and I’m particularly concerned about us having this kind of squad that’s completely unsupervised.”