The Florida legislature on Thursday night passed a sweeping election bill that would make significant changes to mail-in voting in the state after a record number of Floridians cast their ballots by mail in the 2020 election.
Gov. Ron DeSantis told Fox News Thursday night that he plans to sign the bill. If it did, Florida would become the last state to overhaul its electoral system following the 2020 election. Republican lawmakers across the country have proposed significant changes to the way elections are conducted and some have already been enacted, notably Georgia, Iowa and Montana.
The bill would add identity requirements for voters who apply to vote by mail. Voters should provide either their driver’s license, state identification number, or the last four digits of their social security number when requesting a mail ballot. The bill would also require this information to register to vote or to update a voter registration.
The bill would also encourage voters to request postal ballots more frequently. Florida allowed postal ballot requests to last for two general election cycles, but the new bill would require voters to request a postal vote in every general election cycle.
Drop boxes are one of the main targets of the bill. Under the bill, they could be placed in the offices of election supervisors, branches of permanent supervisors and early voting sites. This is a slight change from the current law. This would require them to be in permanent branches rather than any branch. Drop boxes should be distributed to give voters in a county equal access.
The measure also imposes limits on the hours of access to certain drop boxes. Drop boxes at early voting sites were only accessible during early voting hours, but at supervisors’ offices they would be accessible at all hours. Drop boxes are expected to be occupied by an employee of the office of the election supervisor, which is a change from the current law allowing law enforcement officers to supervise and only requires it during voting hours anticipated. Under this measure, supervisors who do not comply with the rules relating to drop boxes should pay a fine of $ 25,000.
It would also give more power to supporters of the ballot observers at certain points in the examination of ballots, ban private funds for elections – something other states have adopted, limit the number of people who can return the ballots postal ballot, would put in place new requirements to settle electoral law prosecutions and expand the reach of outside groups “engaging in any activity with the intention of influencing” voters 150 feet away.
DeSantis hailed the 2020 Florida election, but said while things have gone well in Florida, “we shouldn’t be resting on our laurels.” On Fox News Thursday, DeSantis said the new reforms would make the state’s electoral system “even better.”
The bill passed in the Senate 23-17, with a No Republican vote, and 77-40 in the House along party lines.
During the debate, Republicans noted that there are more than one way to vote in Florida and that this strengthens Florida election security.
“It’s easier now than ever. You voted by mail. You voted early. You got the drop box and you got the vote in person. And 20-30 years ago, you didn’t. didn’t have as many opportunities, “Republican State Senator Travis Hutson said, according to CBS Miami station WFOR.” I believe every legal vote should count. I believe that a fraudulent vote is one too many. And I try to protect the sanctity of our elections. “
The bill did not include some of the more controversial proposals it had considered, including a complete ban on drop boxes, requiring ID to return a ballot to a drop box, and imposing strict requirements on signatures that can be used for signature verification.
While some of the states that have passed or are considering election bills are battleground states won by President Biden, such as Georgia, Arizona and Michigan, former President Trump has won Florida by 3. points in November. Lawmakers in Texas, another state Mr. Trump won, are also considering drastic changes to the state’s election laws.
Some Democratic lawmakers noted that the changes came after Florida Democrats voted about 680,000 more ballots than Republicans in November. Democrats said the new rules would make voting more difficult.
“You don’t put up purposeful barriers the way people do and call it security,” said Democratic State Representative Tracie Davis. “It is an insult to me personally and it is an insult to the millions of voters who depend on us to make decisions for them, especially with regard to electoral law.”
Voting rights and civil rights groups have also denounced the bill.
“Like its predecessors, the unnecessary restrictions imposed by this bill will have a disproportionate impact on voters of color, voters with disabilities, elderly voters and low-income voters. Simply put, SB90 is undemocratic at its core,” Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy advisor for the Florida ACLU, said in a statement.
Outside of elections, the bill would also give the governor the power to appoint replacements for county or municipal elected officials who resign rather than holding special elections to replace those leaders. Republicans argued it simplified alternative resignation scenarios, while Democrats argued it was a takeover.