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Push for election reform by Gov. Ron DeSantis could backfire, political science expert says

'Are you affecting the ability of people that are lawfully allowed to vote?' Dr. Kevin Wagner asks
Posted at 12:10 PM, Nov 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-07 12:36:23-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing for more election reform in Florida.

The governor announced this week he would like lawmakers to pass a bill that would create a law enforcement division to investigate and prosecute election fraud, tighten restrictions on ballot boxes and put time requirements for supervisors to clean voter rolls.

Dr. Kevin Wagner, chairman of the political science department at Florida Atlantic University, said DeSantis is feeding off his supporters as he looks ahead to his re-election run.

Dr. Kevin Wagner shares analysis of Gov. DeSantis' push for election reform

"The public opinion data is pretty clear that Republicans do believe that there is a problem here that needs to be solved, so the governor is speaking to that issue among his base," Wagner told WPTV's Michael Williams on To the Point. "I think, to be fair to the governor, a lot of his base would be unhappy if he wasn't speaking to that issue."

The election reform news comes a few months after DeSantis signed Senate Bill 90 into law while visiting West Palm Beach. The bill reduced the number of drop-off boxes and will require voters to request a mail-in ballot every election. 

"A lot of politicians that push this sort of narrative say what they are trying to do is prevent problems in the future. But the question of course is, are you solving a problem that really doesn't exist. And by solving that problem, are you affecting the ability of people that are lawfully allowed to vote? And that is a legitimate and real concern," Wagner said.

Political analyst Brian Crowley calls proposal for election police in Florida 'kind of scary'

Patrick Franklin, CEO and President of the Urban League of Palm Beach County, said the governor should be advocating for improved technology to help more Floridians cast a ballot.

"We need to emphasize more on how we can open the elections up for people to participate," Franklin said. "I would like Florida to lead the way in technology, bringing forth opportunities to engage with voting that will fit the 21st century. Let's vote by phone. Let's vote by all these different ways that we have access to right now. Let's lead the country in that way rather than trying to find a needle in a haystack that doesn't exist."

Some of the proposals target mail-in ballots. Wagner said it could work against DeSantis since Republicans pushed for mail-in ballots a few years back.

Political analyst Brian Crowley offers thoughts on election polling

"How people vote can change over time, but historically in the state of Florida, what our data shows, is that Republicans benefited a great deal from mail-in ballots, and it was a very significant advantage that Republicans had," Wagner said. "If you crack down on mail-in balloting, you may well affect the ability of a lot of Republicans that have adopted that methodology to vote, so you have to be very careful because sometimes the implications of changing the rules seem very clear to you today but in the long term may actually hurt your ability to get your voters there."

State lawmakers would have to vote on any changes and so far no lawmaker has introduced a bill. The session starts early next year.

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