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Florida voting restrictions bill advances in state legislature

Florida voting restrictions bill advances in state legislature

A bill that would impose new voting restrictions in Florida cleared a key hurdle Tuesday after it was approved in a state Senate committee, setting up a possible floor vote on the legislation in the coming weeks.

The bill, known as S.B. 90, passed the Senate Rules Committee by a 10-7 vote, with only one Republican joining every Democrat in opposing it.

The legislation was rolled back to eliminate some of the most stringent restrictions, including a ban on drop boxes and a requirement for there to be a physical signature on file rather than digital signature for identification verification. It still includes additional identification requirements for absentee voting, new powers for observers to oversee vote tabulation, limits on who can drop off ballots and new requirements for voters to request absentee ballots.

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Republicans have said the bill is necessary to ensure the state’s elections are secure, though no fraud was found in any of Florida’s 2020 races. 

“Things could happen,” state Sen. Dennis Baxley, who introduced the legislation, said Tuesday when discussing the possibility of fraud. 

Critics have lambasted the bill as a solution without a problem, rebutting GOP arguments about election security and highlighting a lack of local support for fears of fraud. 

“I need to put on the record that to my knowledge, not one Republican supervisor of elections in the state of Florida supports this bill in its current form,” said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, the lone Republican on the Rules Committee to vote against the legislation. 

The vote Tuesday was supposed to occur last Wednesday but was postponed after extended debate over the legislation. 

A similar bill has been introduced in the Florida state House. Both chambers would have to pass legislation by April 30 before the legislature’s session adjourns. 

The legislation underscores Florida’s role as the newest battleground in the fight over new voting restriction efforts across the country. 

High-profile voting restriction bills have also been introduced in Georgia, Texas and Arizona, with Democrats likening the legislation to voter suppression and private companies panning the measures. Major League Baseball (MLB) went the furthest by pulling its All-Star Game out of Atlanta after Georgia’s voting rights legislation was signed into law, and activists have pressed firms to stop doing business in any state that adopts similar restrictions.