Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that he claims will make voting in the state less vulnerable to fraud but, in reality, it will likely disenfranchise many Florida voters who vote absentee and by mail.
The new bill introduces a number of restrictions to absentee and mail voting, including limits on collecting votes via dropboxes introduce constraints on where they can be located, who can drop off a ballot, and a requirement that the dropboxes be staffed by an election official. Additionally, it grants new powers to party poll watchers and adds new identification requirements to make even minor changes to a voter’s registration records.
Republicans, crying voter fraud despite zero evidence it exists on a widespread basis, claim the new changes increase the security of votes. But critics say it will disproportionately affect elderly voters, working class voters, disabled voters, voters of color, and students.
Other provisions in the bill create a 150-foot no-influence zone around polling places and mandate that candidates and other observers be able to watch over certain moments of the ballot-handling process.
During a signing ceremony Thursday, the governor praised the bill, saying, “Right now I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country. We’re also banning ballot harvesting. We’re not going to let political operatives go and get satchels of votes and dump them in some dropbox.”
As soon as the bill was signed, voting rights organizations filed lawsuits against it. Black Voters Matter Fund, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, and the League of Women Voters of Florida filed one such suit.
“It’s a despicable attempt by a one-party-ruled legislature to choose who can vote in our state and who cannot. It’s undemocratic, unconstitutional, and un-American,” Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said in a statement announcing their filing.
The NAACP and Common Cause have filed a separate suit against the law. In their filing, they write that the changes introduce “barriers and burdens that impact all Florida voters and disproportionately impacts the ability of Black voters, Latino voters, and voters with disabilities to cast their ballot.”
DeSantis signed the bill during a live broadcast of Fox and Friends, and the signing event excluded local media. When reporters complained, DeSantis explained afterward that they were not allowed into in because he was “happy to give [Fox News] the exclusive on that.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) just signed the state's new restrictive voting bill live on Fox News (after barring local press from the bill's signing). pic.twitter.com/hR2ZXooABy
— The Recount (@therecount) May 6, 2021