Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed new election restrictions Thursday that restricted access to votes in one of the country’s critical battlefield states.
Florida, which former President Donald J. Trump won by around three percentage points in 2020, is the youngest Republican-controlled state after Georgia, Montana and Iowa to impose new hurdles for voting after the November elections.
Voters and Democrats say some provisions of the new law will disproportionately affect color voters.
Here’s a guide on how the law changes Florida voting.
What are the changes in the new law?
The law, Senate Bill 90, limits the use of dropboxes that voters can use to place postal ballot papers and adds additional identification requirements for anyone requesting a postal vote. In addition, according to the previous law, voters must request a postal vote for every two-year election cycle and not every four years. In addition, there is a limit to who is allowed to collect and submit voting papers.
The law also expands a current rule prohibiting outside groups from holding signs or carrying political paraphernalia within 150 feet of a polling station or dropbox “with the intent to influence voters,” an increase from the previous 100 Foot.
Why are people upset?
The new law weakens important parts of an extensive electoral infrastructure that was slow to build after the state’s chaotic elections in 2000. Thanks to this infrastructure, Florida was able to ramp up quickly in 2020 to enable postal voting and increased drop boxes during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to law critics, color voters are most dependent on dropboxes after business hours, as it is often more difficult for them to take hours off during the day and organize transport to polling stations.
Republican lawmakers advocating the bill provided little evidence of electoral fraud and advocated restricting access, despite continuing to claim that the 2020 elections were the “gold standard” for the country.
Florida has a popular tradition of postal voting: in the 2016 and 2018 elections, nearly a third of the state’s voters cast ballots by mail.
In both years, more Republicans than Democrats voted by mail. But in 2020, more than 2.1 million Democrats cast postal ballots, compared with 1.4 million Republicans after Mr Trump repeatedly claimed that expanding postal voting would lead to fraud.
Was electoral fraud a problem in Florida?
According to all information, the vote went smoothly in 2020.
“There was no problem in Florida,” said Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “Everything worked as it should. The only reason they do this is to make voting harder. “
And Mr. DeSantis praised Florida’s handling of the November elections, saying his state had “the strongest electoral integrity measures in the country.”
Regarding the need for the new law, however, he said: “Florida has taken steps during this legislature to increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections.”
The struggle for voting rights
Amid months of false claims by former President Donald J. Trump that the 2020 election was stolen, Republican lawmakers in many states are marching forward to pass laws that make voting harder and that change the way elections are conducted, something the Democrats and even some do Elections frustrate officials in their own party.
- A key issue: The rules and procedures of elections have become a central issue in American politics. The Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal law institute at New York University, counts 361 bills in 47 states trying to tighten voting rules. At the same time, 843 bills were introduced with provisions to improve access to voting.
- The basic measures: Restrictions vary by state, but may include restricting the use of ballot boxes, adding identification requirements for voters requesting postal votes, and removing local laws that allow automatic registration for postal voting.
- Other extreme measures: Some measures go beyond changing voting, including adjusting electoral college and judicial electoral rules, curbing citizen-led electoral initiatives, and banning private donations that provide resources for managing elections.
- Pushback: These Republican efforts have led the Democrats in Congress to find a way to get federal electoral laws passed. A comprehensive voting rights bill was passed in March, but faces tough obstacles in the Senate. Republicans have been unanimous against the proposal, and even if the law did go into effect, it would likely face major legal challenges.
- Florida: The last state to restrict voting. Measures include limiting the use of dropboxes, adding more identification requirements for postal ballot papers, requiring voters to request a postal vote for each election, limiting who can collect and submit ballot papers, and further empowering partisan observers during the election counting process.
- Texas: The next big step could come here, with the Republicans in the legislature pushing aside the objections of the corporate titans and putting in a sweeping electoral law that would be among the strictest in the nation. This would place new restrictions on early voting, prohibit drive-through voting, threaten election officials with harsher penalties, and highly empower partisan poll observers.
- Other states: Georgia Republicans passed sweeping new voting laws in March that restrict ballot boxes and make the distribution of water within certain limits of a polling station an offense. Iowa has also set new boundaries, including reducing the deadline for early voting and personal voting hours on election day. And bills to restrict voting were passed by Republicans in Arizona and Michigan.
Do other states have similar restrictions?
Yes. The Texas House of Representatives passed a similar measure this week after much debate. The bill will soon be picked up by the state’s Republican-controlled Senate. Other states, including Arizona, Michigan, and Ohio, are considering their own bills.
What can we expect next?
Constituencies filed lawsuits shortly after Mr. DeSantis signed the law while broadcasting it live on a Fox News morning broadcast.
The Florida League of Women Voters, the Black Voters Matter Fund, and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans joined a lawsuit arguing that “Senate Bill 90 does not hinder all Florida voters equally”.
“It was developed and will make it more difficult for certain types of voters to vote in state elections, including those voters who generally want to vote by post and voters who have had significant problems in the past to get through the hurdles to get to the ballot box, such as Florida’s senior voters, youngest voters, and minority voters. “
Another lawsuit was filed by the NAACP Legal Protection and Education Fund, Disability Rights Florida and Common Cause, which argued that the law violated the Constitutional Protection and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The law took effect immediately and will come into effect for the 2022 election, when Mr DeSantis stands for re-election.
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