Florida State Legislature Limits Voting, Approving Restrictions on Vote-by-Mail and Drop-off Boxes

Joe Duncan

The Florida legislature has approved a measure that significantly limits voter access

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Sgt. Leia Tascarini

Only a single Republican joined Democrats to stand against a vote in the Florida State Legislature to curtail voter access statewide. The measure also called SB90, passed by a margin of 5 votes, meaning it will be up to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to sign it. The bill makes changes to the way we register to vote and vote.

The law extends the current deadline for voter registration from 48 hours to 14 days. This is very good.

Former Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law several years ago that levied fines for anyone who turned in their voter registration and it arrived at the Supervisor of Elections later than 48 hours after the voter filled out the application. Thankfully, assuming Governor DeSantis signs the bill into law, that deadline will be raised to a much more reasonable 14 days instead of 48 hours.

The fine is $50 for individuals and $250 for organizations, such as local political groups and voter registration organizations.

Florida currently has voter drop boxes available 24 hours per day. But if this law passes, an elections official will need to staff each dropbox. This will also limit the time that we'll be able to drop off our ballots.

Food and drink will not be able to be passed out within 150 feet of a voting place. I have no idea how this intends to improve the quality of the election aside from making us hungry, thirsty, tired, and probably cranky.

Mail drop boxes will only be able to accept ballots during early voting periods, as well, meaning that we'll have to vote in person if we miss the window to vote in person. Democrats in the state have already begun to push back against the law, saying it'll be more difficult for voters who have work and childcare obligations that make it difficult for them to take time to go vote in person.

News Service of Florida reported on the bill back on the 26th of April, before it had come to a vote, and their report includes a series of Democrats who call the new voting measure another form of voter suppression. To them, it seems the latest in a series of challenges from the Republican Party to limit voting rights in Florida after Florida voters approved a ballot measure to restore voting rights to felons by an overwhelming majority, back in 2018.

Democrats are saying the new law unfairly targets those in inner cities and minority communities, as it comes in the wake of the new Georgia bill that did similar things. In Georgia, these voter access restrictions caused a stir, forcing Major League Baseball to pull their all-star game from Atlanta, which was followed by a series of corporate boycotts. 

Republicans feel the law will strengthen election integrity, though just by the logic of things, it doesn't seem it'll do much besides making voting more difficult.

We in Florida can take away two things from this trend. The Republican Party wants to make voting more difficult for most or all Floridians. One party wants everyone to vote, the other party wants fewer people to vote. If there was widespread voter fraud, none of the measures in this bill seem to prevent them, logically. Having food and drink doesn't really curb illegal voting in any way, for instance, nor does restricting access to ballot boxes or restricting the time when we all can vote.

This brings me to my next point. The other thing we can take away from this is that it's now going to be more of a pain in the neck for us to actually find the time, get out, and cast our votes, depending on our area. We could see long wait lines like we've seen in other states as the restricted time frames cause bottlenecks for voters who want to get in and get out in a hurry. Plus, there'll be no snacks.

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Orlando, FL
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