Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration has asked the Florida state legislature to expand the governor’s sham election police force.
Late last month, Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd filed a budget request to the Florida Senate proposing additional funding for the Office of Election Crimes and Security (OECS), a division launched within his department in the wake of 2020 to investigate supposed widespread voter fraud—and to signal to Trump supporters his commitment to the Big Lie as he flirted with presidential ambitions.
The DeSantis administration is looking to swell the office’s budget from $1.2 million to $3,145,527 in the next legislative session. In the budget request, Byrd also said the administration wants to expand the staff from 15 to 42 positions.
When reached, the governor’s office did not immediately provide comment. Byrd’s office did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
The OECS has so far had trouble filling the positions it currently has. Its first director, Pete Antonacci, died in September, and its interim director Scott Strauss stepped down. A Jan. 9 organizational chart released by the Department of State showed only four filled positions, including Strauss. He left the position later that month.
As of last month, the office only had an administrative assistant, the interim director, an inspector specialist, and a program director named Brooke Renney, a self-described Republican operative who publicly admitted that she wasn’t an expert in election integrity or administration. Accounts have varied, but the office reportedly only has three to five employees at this time. Strauss did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When asked whether the office was fully staffed during a budget hearing last month, Byrd said that staffing is among his “top priorities,” but said he’s been a bit preoccupied.
“We had two statewide elections—one in August, one in November—so they had to get up and running very quickly,” he told the Senate panel.
The office made headlines in August, when the governor announced the arrest of 20 formerly incarcerated citizens who they accused of voting illegally. However, four of the cases—including one from Monday—were thrown out on a technicality, one of them pleaded no contest, and another ended up in a split verdict. The office’s creation was widely considered a political stunt by DeSantis, who has been using his pulpit as governor to court Trump supporters on a national level as he weighs a 2024 bid.
By beefing up the OECS and passing a bill to expand statewide prosecutors’ jurisdiction, the DeSantis administration is trying to change their luck.
The office claimed in an annual report that it handled more than 3,000 possible cases, forwarded over 1,000 names to law enforcement and received over 2,000 complaints.