Florida to Make Possession of More Than Two Voter Ballots a Felony

Possessing more than two ballots in Florida will become a felony under a bill passed by state lawmakers Wednesday.

The offense was previously a misdemeanor in the state under a 2021 law. But the more serious classification in the new legislation will make it punishable with a fine of up to $50,000 and five years in prison, The Washington Post reported. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has indicated he will sign the bill into law.

The ballot felony is just one part of a bill that aims to reform certain elements of Florida elections. The legislation would also establish a first-of-its-kind elections police force for the U.S., which has raised concerns about its possible impact on voters, the Post reported.

In a November press release that announced his intention to propose the legislation, DeSantis said that the measures were aimed at bolstering "election integrity" in the state.

"I am excited that with this legislation, our state will be able to enforce election violations, combat voter fraud and make sure violators are held accountable," he said in a statement. "If potential violators know they will be held accountable, they will be much less likely to engage in improper conduct in the first place."

DeSantis' office is "looking forward" to the bill landing on his desk, a spokesperson told Newsweek.

"We're very excited and thank the Legislature for delivering on Governor DeSantis' election security initiative. The Legislature carried out our goal of making it easier to vote and harder to cheat," the spokesperson said.

Florida Ballot Felony
Possessing more than two ballots in Florida will become a penalty under a bill passed by the Legislature this week. Above, Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24 in Orlando. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

DeSantis proposed plans for the police force about two months ago, but the measure passed Wednesday by the GOP-led House and Senate has some key differences. The governor had requested almost $6 million to hire a force of 52 people, but instead he will be allotted about $2.5 million to hire 25 staffers for the new Office of Election Crimes and Security.

Joe Scott, the Broward County elections supervisor, said the bill was "drastically improved" from DeSantis' original proposal. But the Democrat added that he still believes the state shouldn't have an elections force, according to the Post.

The misdemeanor-to-felony boost for possessing more than two ballots has also been criticized.

"We're going to convict people of a felony because they helped three instead of two elderly neighbors?" Democratic state Representative Joseph Geller asked while arguing against the legislation Wednesday.

Under the bill, election supervisors would have to cull voter rolls (or sift out names) every year rather than every two years. Switching the party registration of a voter without the person's authorization would bring a $1,000 fine, the Post reported.

Ballot drop boxes will be renamed "secure ballot intake stations" when the bill becomes law.

Newsweek reached out to Geller for additional comment but did not hear back before publication.

Update 03/10/22, 4:55 p.m. ET: This story was updated with comments from Governor DeSantis' office.