Campaign

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs election restriction bill

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday signed a sweeping new election reform measure that would restrict access to the ballot box, the latest Republican-led effort to change election procedures sparked by former President Trump's defeat six months ago.

DeSantis signed the legislation live on Fox News, shutting out local media who had planned to cover the ceremony. Florida Republicans passed the measure on near party-line votes over the objection of civil rights groups and over the opposition of all 67 of the state's county supervisors of elections.

The measure would limit voter access to absentee ballot drop boxes used by most Florida counties, and it would require voters who want to cast absentee ballots to submit new requests every election cycle, rather than every four years. It will also ban anyone other than election workers from distributing food or water to anyone waiting in line within 150 feet of a polling place.

The bill would require voters who want an absentee ballot or to change their party registration to submit a driver's license number, a state identification number or the last four digits of their Social Security number along with their request.

It also bars the state or any Florida county from entering into legal consent agreements that would change election procedures, and it bans counties from accepting grants or private funds to pay for election-related expenses. The ban on private funding is similar to measures under consideration in Texas, Arizona and other states where dozens of counties received grants from a nonprofit tied to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to help pay for additional poll workers and security systems.

Republicans have said the measures are meant to improve confidence in elections after what federal officials then working for the Trump administration called the safest and most secure elections conducted in American history. 

Trump and his Republican allies had sought to undermine the confidence in an election President Biden won by a wide margin. In a statement after the bill signing, DeSantis acknowledged the changes came even without actual allegations of fraud or mischief in last year's elections.

"Floridians can rest assured that our state will remain a leader in ballot integrity," DeSantis said. "Elections should be free and fair, and these changes will ensure this continues to be the case in the Sunshine State."

Democrats have unanimously opposed the election overhauls signed by DeSantis and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), as well as those being debated in Texas and Arizona.

On Thursday, minutes after DeSantis signed the legislation, Democratic attorney Marc Elias said his team had filed litigation challenging the bill on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Black Voters Matter Fund and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans. The suit claims the bill violates the First and 14th Amendments.

"Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Republicans are more interested in holding on to power than ensuring fair access to our democracy," said Manny Diaz, the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. "They all praised the quality of the November elections here in Florida and now they are changing the rules. For the Florida Republicans, this bill is not about election integrity, it is about blatant voter suppression, just because they can."

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