Florida Enacts New Voting Restrictions, Joining Other Republican-Led States

By: - May 6, 2021 12:00 am

A Florida voter uses a drop box to cast her absentee ballot in Fort Lauderdale in the November presidential election. Florida Republicans just enacted new restrictions on ballot drop boxes. mpi04/MediaPunch/IPX/via The Associated Press

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this week signed strict voting legislation that will make it more difficult to vote by mail and restrict the use of ballot drop boxes.

The GOP-led legislature passed the measure late last month. At a signing ceremony broadcast on Fox & Friends, DeSantis said the measure will combat election fraud.

“Right now, I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country,” DeSantis said.

The League of Women Voters and several other voting rights groups sued the state just hours after DeSantis signed the law, saying the measure will disproportionately hurt voters of color, older voters, college students and voters with disabilities.

“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,” said Patricia Brigham, president of the group, in a statement.

Florida’s law is the latest in a wave of new voting restrictions that Republican state lawmakers are pushing this session. The governors of Georgia and Iowa have signed similar laws, and legislation is pending in Arizona and Texas. Republicans argue the measures are needed to protect against fraud, though there is no evidence to support their suspicions.

The legislation that DeSantis signed did not include some more restrictive provisions that were in earlier versions of the bill, including a ban on ballot drop boxes. However, the new law requires Floridians to present identification to request an absentee ballot, and to apply for an absentee ballot before every election. It also gives partisan observers more oversight when local election officials count ballots.

Like Georgia’s new law, the Florida legislation bans people from handing out food or water in long lines at polls, requires counties to station guards at ballot drop boxes and limits drop box hours of use.

Some supporters say the laws are needed because many of their constituents believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen—a lie that former President Donald Trump continues to spread. According to several recent polls, a majority of Republicans believe President Joe Biden was elected because of rampant fraud.

Florida Republican lawmakers passed the measure over the opposition of local election administrators of both parties, who warned it would make it unnecessarily hard to cast a ballot. Election officials also worry about increased costs, since they will be responsible for staffing drop boxes and processing new vote-by-mail applications.

Voting rights advocates say the legislation is a backlash to record voter turnout in November’s presidential election.

“By erecting onerous barriers to request and return a vote-by-mail ballot, this legislature has made voting a test of stamina and resources rather than a statement of civic responsibility,” said Brad Ashwell, Florida state director for All Voting is Local, a national voting rights group.

The Florida measure is also the first new law since hundreds of major American businesses such as Amazon and Google have threatened retribution against states that pass restrictive voting measures. After Georgia enacted its new law in March, Major League Baseball announced it would no longer host its All-Star Game in Atlanta.

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Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros

Matt Vasilogambros covers voting rights, gun laws and Western climate policy for Stateline. He lives in San Diego, California.