Florida Legislature Approves New Voting Restrictions

Florida Legislature Approves New Voting Restrictions election worker stamps a ballot at drop box In this Oct. 26, 2020 file photo, an election worker stamps a vote-by-mail ballot dropped off by a voter before placing it in an official ballot drop box before at the Miami-Dade County Board of Elections in Doral, Fla. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

By Jeffrey Rodack | Friday, 30 April 2021 09:25 AM

Florida lawmakers approved an election bill that places restrictions on voting by mail and on drop boxes.

Both the state House and Senate passed the bill on Thursday despite concerns from Democrats and voting rights activists that the restrictions would amount to voter suppression, according to NBC News.

It is expected to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. The bill was approved by the state Senate 23-17 and in the state House by a vote of 77-40.

It requires voters to request mail ballots each election cycle starting after the 2022 vote, while grandfathering in those who asked for mail ballots in previous years, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

And NBC News noted the bill permits the use of ballot drop boxes as long as election officials follow limits on who could drop off ballots at the boxes.

There are also restrictions on where the boxes could be placed and a mandate that elections officials have to monitor them when they’re open.

The bill prohibits election officials from using private money to help pay for election administration, and gives DeSantis the opportunity to name replacements to fill certain local political positions left open by people running for higher office.

According to NBC News, Democrats say that particular provision is aimed at local officials looking to replace the late U.S Rep. Alcee Hastings. Democrat state Sen. Audrey Gibson said the measure was an "attempt to create a monarchy" by giving the governor more power.

And Democrats blasted the restrictions outlined in the bill and called it voter suppression.

"It should never be acceptable that you’re trying to make it difficult for some people to vote," said Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale.

But Republicans countered that Florida laws still permit for plenty of time for early and mail voting and are less restrictive than other Democrat-run states, the Orlando Sentinel said.

Republicans said the bill was about preventing future attempts at fraud.

"I believe one fraudulent vote is one too many, and I’m trying to protect the sanctity of our elections," said Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine.

And Republican state Rep. Ralph Massullo said: "I take some issue with the fact that we're trying to somehow restrict the vote. There are more ways to vote in Florida and a longer opportunity than just about any state in the nation.

"Fraud will be reduced as much as we can possibly do it with the work we're doing today," he said.

And NBC News noted the Florida measure is one of many being introduced by Republican controlled legislatures across the nation. Florida Democrats have repeatedly compared it to controversial election legislation in Georgia.