Florida Governor Signs New Voting Limits Into Law

Florida is the latest GOP-controlled state to place more restrictions on mail-in ballots in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Capitol in Tallahassee last week. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a controversial voting reform bill on Thursday, prompting an immediate lawsuit challenging the new regulations governing vote-by-mail eligibility and rules around ballot drop boxes.

SB 90, approved by the Republican-led House and Senate last week, follows voting reform laws adopted by a handful of other Republican-led states, including neighboring Georgia, which passed a widely denounced election law in March.

Florida’s new law eliminates all-hours ballot drop boxes and requires an elections official to continuously monitor the boxes during normal early-voting hours. The measure also limits who can drop off another voter’s ballot to only their immediate family members.

An earlier version of the bill would have prohibited drop boxes entirely.

Per the new law, those who vote by mail will have to request a ballot for every election. Previously, voters only had to request a mail-in ballot every two election cycles. Voters will first need to provide identification such as a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.

In last November’s election, more than 4.8 million Floridians voted by mail — a majority of them Democrats.

DeSantis, a Republican, signed the bill into law live on “Fox & Friends” at an event held by Club 45 USA, a fan club supporting former President Donald Trump. Other media organizations were barred from the event.

“I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country,” DeSantis said on the program. “We’re making sure we’re enforcing voter ID… We’re also banning ballot harvesting. We’re not going to let political operatives go and get satchels of votes to dump them in some drop box.”

“We’re also prohibiting mass mailing of balloting,” he added. “We’ve had absentee voting in Florida for a long time. You request the ballot, you get it and you mail it in. But to just indiscriminately send them out is not a recipe for success.”

The staged event spotlighted DeSantis’ conservative bonafides as he positions himself for reelection next year. The governor already has one Democratic challenger – Congressman Charlie Crist.

“This is the difference between @GovRonDeSantis and me,” Crist tweeted after the bill’s signing. “He locks out the public and caters to Fox News. When I was governor, everyone was invited in – Democrats, Republicans and Independents. And when I’m governor again, this will be a Florida for all.”

Crist served as Florida governor, as a Republican, from 2007 to 2011.

Moments after DeSantis signed the bill, a group of voting rights organizations filed a lawsuit in Tallahassee federal court, alleging the new law creates an undue burden on the right to vote and suppresses free speech.

“[SB 90] is crafted to and will operate to make it more difficult for certain types of voters to participate in the state’s elections, including those voters who generally wish to vote with a vote-by-mail ballot and voters who have historically had to overcome substantial hurdles to reach the ballot box, such as Florida’s senior voters, youngest voters, and minority voters,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit was brought by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matter Fund, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and three Florida residents.

The state’s Democratic minority and civil rights groups also forcefully condemned the bill as it moved through the Florida Legislature.

“Our elections system was not broken,” state Senator Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, said in a statement on Thursday. “Florida operated a seamless election last year in the midst of a global pandemic. … This legislation is just Governor DeSantis tightening his authoritarian grip over our elections system, and employing oppressive measures to restrict voter access and empower partisan politics.”

The state’s 67 supervisors of elections have also denounced the law.

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