OPINION: DeSantis’ election integrity only applies to political opponents

Election integrity has become a key focus for Gov. Ron DeSantis, but not when it occurs within his own political party. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/FLICKR/KOMUnews

Seminole County Chairman Ben Paris was found guilty Sept. 1 of campaign fraud for the 2020 Florida Senate election, according to the Tampa Bay Times — a prime example of election interference.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has not made any public comments on the election fraud campaign run by Paris, but has been outspoken on his election integrity force keeping Florida’s own secure. 

If one of DeSantis’ biggest concerns is to keep elections safe, then he must hold those accountable in the recent ghost candidate scheme. This means looking inside his own party lines.

The charges are in relation to what prosecutors describe as “ghost candidates,” where a candidate uses an independent with no campaign history to siphon voters away from their political rival, with connections related to state Sen. Jason Brodeur’s campaign in 2020. 

Paris allegedly used his cousin’s information and donated to the Iannotti campaign, which was revealed to be a ghost candidate paid to siphon progressive voters away from Patricia Sigman, political candidate of Brodeur.

With the political scandal spreading across Central Florida, DeSantis has made no comment. This is ironic, considering he has been highlighting the work of his Election Crimes and Security office these past few weeks.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that following investigations by the Florida Office of Election Crimes and Security and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), 20 individuals are being arrested by FDLE for breaking Florida’s elections laws,” an Aug. 18 statement from the governor’s office said.

There’s one main issue with the arrest of these 20 former convicts — they all had voter IDs provided by the state, allowing them to vote in the 2020 election, according to Florida investigators.

The former convicts had been permitted to vote in the months following the 2020 election, and five of them had not been removed until this year, according to Craig Latimer, the county’s supervisor of elections. DeSantis is clearly using scare tactics to push the upcoming midterms in his favor.

“This is a dangerous, political stunt aimed at scaring voters,” Rep. Lois Frankel said in a statement released on Sept. 13. “These 20 Floridians were arrested after being told by state officials that they were qualified to vote and could participate in the election.”

DeSantis even went as far as to hold a conference Aug. 18 where he paraded the arrests of these individuals and used them as an example.

“Today’s actions send a clear signal to those who are thinking about ballot harvesting or fraudulently voting,” DeSantis said at the press conference. “If you commit an election crime, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

With Paris, a rich white GOP member committing election fraud, there is no comment or conference.

Saying election security is a must, while ignoring such violations is not solving the issue. DeSantis holds the power to ensure election security within his own party lines and outside it, and make it clear that election violations be prosecuted regardless of party affiliations. 

Election security is a key point in democratic elections, to see this level of interference is a threat to that process.

If the governor cannot make a comment on his own party’s fraud while using his election fraud squad to arrest others for mistakes the state made, it shows a bias in his intentions behind the motive of keeping elections safer.