DeSantis, GOP leaders silent on calls for Florida election audits by Trump supporters

The effort in Florida is similar to requests in such states as Montana, South Carolina

Updated: October 9, 2021 - 10:58pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Florida Republicans are making attempts to get GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis to back an audit of the state's November 2020 election results similar to those in other states – but so far the governor and Trump ally has yet to publicly respond or back any such effort.  

The state's Lake County Republican Party recently passed a resolution calling on Florida's GOP-dominated legislature to authorize a hand-recount of all 11.1 million ballots cast in Florida during last November's elections.

Then-President Trump easily won the state by over 371,000 votes, securing 51% of the ballot, a decisive win by battleground Florida standards.

But the country party thinks Trump's margin of victory would have been larger if not for fraud and is asking lawmakers to "improve election integrity." 

The party says "many voters of all parties are angry at the findings of election fraud around the states" and that its effort is the first such to respond to "constant Republican concerns about election integrity in Florida."

One party member, state GOP Rep. Anthony Sabatini, the legislature's most ardent Trump fan, has recently taken steps to file a bill similar to the one he tried unsuccessfully to get passed last spring calling for an audit. If passed this time, the bill would result in lawmakers conducting such an audit in their 2022 legislative session.

However, Sabatini's bill doesn't call for a statewide audit – it targets only precincts in Florida counties with a population of 250,000 or more, which are generally urban areas controlled by Democrats, 

His bill attempts to do what Texas GOP lawmakers pressured the state's elections office into doing, launching a "full forensic audit" of 2020 election results in four Democratic-dominated counties.

Sabatini maintains Democratic counties failed to flag duplicate online voter registrations, which he says is among the concerns of his constituents about Democrats cheating in elections.

"It's not about margin of victory," he said. "It's the fact is that people want total verification of the election results. They want an independent review of the votes."

Meanwhile, Florida Republican State Committee member Alfie Oakes, a Naples business owner and key GOP contributor, has pledged $100,000 to DeSantis' reelection campaign if the governor meets with him to review alleged evidence that Florida's 2020 election was fraud riddled.

Similar audit demands are circulating nationwide – in county committees and state legislatures including those in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania where Republicans on a Senate committee have launched their own "forensic investigation" into 2020 election results. It's part of what the committee calls a "comprehensive election integrity investigation."

In Montana, 86 of 98 state GOP lawmakers support creating a joint legislative committee to review 2020 election results because, they say, "many of our constituents ... reached out to us with questions about Montana election security."

In South Carolina, the Lexington County GOP Committee last week petitioned Gov. Henry McMaster to audit its 2020 election results. Although Trump won the county with 64% of the vote, the committee maintains voter rolls weren’t "sufficiently cleaned," resulting in illegal votes being cast and diluting Trump's margin of victory.

But thus far in Florida, other than brief comments by Secretary of State Laurel Lee, DeSantis and othrer Republican leaders in the state capital have yet to respond at least publicly to calls for an audit.

On Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the election, DeSantis, who like Trump appears to be considering a 2024 presidential bid, proclaimed Florida's 2020 election performance a national "model" and has said little since.

"People are actually looking at Florida and asking the question, 'Why can't the (other) states be more like Florida? Florida was able to handle 11 million ballots,' " he said. "The way Florida did it, I think, inspires confidence. I think that's how elections should be run."

In July, Lee dismissed a Sabatini-type bill.

"Florida’s election in 2020 was accurate, transparent and conducted in compliance with Florida law," Lee told the Orlando Sentinel. "Florida has already conducted both pre- and post-elections audits, and we are confident in the security and integrity of our 2020 election results. The post-election audit confirmed Florida’s 2020 election was secure and accurate."