Florida lawmakers backtracked legislative language that threatened to ban giving food or drink to voters near a polling station, removing the ban from an amended version of a bill election that was approved by a House committee on Thursday.
The original version of House Bill 7041 prohibited “giving or attempting to give an item” to a voter or “interacting or attempting to interact” with a voter within 150 feet of an office. to vote. But an amended version of the bill, approved by the House of Commons appropriations committee, no longer includes any prohibitions.
However, the sponsor of the bill, Republican Blaise Ingoglia, argued that even though the specific language has disappeared, it is possible that the distribution of food and water could go against the ban on the project. of law to “engage in any activity with the intention of influencing a voter.” “
Ingoglia cited the example of a well-known politician, like Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, distributing food and water to voters without specifically asking for a voter support.
“If Ron DeSantis started up and down the line, handing out stuff to voters online within 150 feet, I would dare say your candidate would say he was trying to influence the vote,” he said.
Voting rights advocates have criticized Republicans-led legislative efforts in states to add new restrictions on voting. And President Joe Biden Biden specifically highlighted Georgia’s restrictions on distributing food and water to voters as part of his condemnation of these new laws.
But Ingoglia said that if he felt that “Florida administered one of the smoothest elections” in the country last year, “we should use each election that passes as an opportunity to look back and identify what we can do better “.
The 51-page Florida House bill makes sweeping changes to state election laws, including placing new restrictions on ballot boxes; change the process for verifying voters’ signatures; requiring voters to ask to vote by mail more frequently; and prohibit civil servants from receiving private funds intended to finance election expenses.
Some Democrats who opposed the bill again applauded Ingoglia for making changes backed by voting rights activists, even as they raised other concerns about the amended legislation.
The bill must go through another committee vote before State House has a chance to approve it. The Republican State Senate is also working on its own overhaul of the state’s voting laws and a hearing on their bill has been temporarily postponed this week.