Florida Republicans poised to make more changes to election laws


“We can all be proud that the 2022 election ran very smoothly across the state, but it is critical that we continue to safeguard against abuse, seek input from a variety of stakeholders, and make process improvements where we can,” said State Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) in a statement about the legislation. “These efforts ensure we continue to maintain the integrity of our free and fair elections — a cornerstone of our nation’s democracy.”

The legislation does not address the state’s resign-to-run law, even though GOP legislative leaders said they were willing to tweak the law to make sure that DeSantis does not have to give up his office should he become the Republican nominee for president.

But Democrats still reacted sharply to the proposed bill, which was released about one day before it is scheduled for its first vote in the state Senate. The House has yet to release a similar bill, but House Speaker Paul Renner has already said he expects his chamber to push through elections-related legislation.

“It is absolutely absurd to drop a 98-page elections bill with just a 24 hour notice for its first hearing,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando). “Not only is it absurd, but it’s undemocratic and clearly designed to avoid public scrutiny. We should be introducing election reforms that make it simpler for people to vote and get registered to vote; not policies that make it harder.”

The DeSantis administration last year highlighted the arrest of nearly two-dozen people for voting illegally because they had prior convictions for murder or sex offenses. But some of those arrested said they thought they were eligible because they had been issued a voter ID card. Under the process it is usually up to the state to figure out if someone is eligible.

The proposed bill (S.B. 7050) would now require a disclaimer to be placed on the card that says it is “not legal verification of the eligibility to vote.”

Desmond Meade, executive director and president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, called the proposal “a rush job” and a “legislative cover up to fix a flaw.”

Meade led the push for a 2018 constitutional amendment that restored voting rights for many convicted felons. Many people registered to vote after its passage, but there is not one central database available that can tell potential voters if they meet the new criteria.

“If a returning citizen can’t rely on the state to figure out if they are eligible, who can they rely on?” Meade said.

Since the 2020 election — where mail-in voting was repeatedly criticized by former President Donald Trump — GOP legislators in the Sunshine State have pushed through several changes to mail-in voting, many of them at the insistence of DeSantis. Democrats and voting rights groups widely criticized a 2021 law that place a two-ballot limit on how many mail-in ballots someone could gather for elderly or sick voters.

Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd had recommended several additional changes to voting laws this year including blocking voters from being able to request a mail-in-ballot by telephone. That change, however, was not included in the proposal released on Monday.

But some of the notable provisions in the bill would increase fines and penalties against outside groups that conduct voter registration drives. The proposed measure would require these organizations to give someone a receipt after they register.

The legislation would also make it a felony for anyone to intimidate or threaten election workers, a move that comes after local election officials have reported coming under repeated pressure the last few years after Trump falsely asserted there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

The measure would also tweak campaign finance laws by reducing the frequency that candidates and political committees have to file reports except for a five-month period during election years. It would also alter vote-by-mail request deadlines and require first-time voters to vote in person if they do not have a social security number or Florida driver’s license or state issued identification.

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( With inputs from : )


TheNewsCaravan News Desk

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