Florida’s Republican-led legislature passed a bill that adds new rules for voting by mail, including restrictions on ballot drop boxes, marking another example of GOP lawmakers amending remote-voting systems after the 2020 elections.
Republicans, who maintain strong majorities in both chambers of Florida’s legislature, toned down some parts of the bill compared with earlier proposals before passing the measures mostly along party lines. The passage drew criticism from Democrats, who said Republicans were trying to suppress Democratic voters who flocked to use mail-in ballots in higher numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Republicans said the new rules were guardrails against fraud and wouldn’t curb access to the polls.
The legislation requires that drop boxes are manned by election workers and used only during a county’s early voting hours, with the exception of secure boxes at county election supervisors’ offices. The bill also includes more identification requirements for voters requesting a mail-in ballot, among other measures.
The bill also tightens rules on activity that could influence voters within 150 feet of a polling place or drop box. Proponents said the rules are intended to protect voters, and the bill says election officials can provide nonpartisan assistance within the “no-solicitation zone.” Opponents of the measure said the rules are vague and will prohibit things like handing out water on hot days.
Democrats said the changes will make it harder to cast a ballot, particularly for minority voters, and that the legislation wasn’t needed after Florida held a generally smooth election in November. Democrats also complained that Republicans rushed changes in the final days of the legislative session, which ends Friday, and compared the bill to sweeping GOP-led voting changes in Georgia that became a national flashpoint this spring.
“There’s no reason whatsoever that we should deter people from voting,” said Florida state
Sen. Audrey Gibson,
a Democrat, on Thursday, adding that the legislation will make casting a ballot more difficult.
The bill now heads to GOP
Gov. Ron DeSantis.
His office has said he supports the legislation, adding that it would ensure that Florida remains a national leader in election security and transparency.
Several Republican-controlled state legislatures this year have pushed election changes that proponents say will improve security and bolster voter confidence. In Georgia, the wide-ranging election-law passed by Republicans in late March also included new rules around drop boxes, among other changes. The bill has triggered several lawsuits and criticism from some major businesses.
Democrats have said Republicans are pushing for changes in response to unsupported fraud claims by former President
and some allies. No court or election authority found evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
The Florida bill bounced back and forth in the statehouse in the waning days of the legislative session. Both chambers repeatedly passed versions and amendments before a compromise version finally passed late Thursday.
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Appeared in the April 30, 2021, print edition as ‘Florida’s Voting Rules Bill Is Passed.’
Source: WSJ – US News