WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida's controversial new election law signed Thursday by Gov. Ron DeSantis is being touted by Republicans as legislation that will prevent potential voter fraud.
However, Democrats and voter advocacy groups say the measure will make it harder for minorities, elderly voters, voters with disabilities and students to cast their ballot.
The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature passed the law without any votes from Democrats in the House or Senate. The only Republican lawmaker that did not vote for Senate Bill 90 was State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.
Republicans acknowledged there were no major voting irregularities in last November's election, prompting Democrats and voting rights groups to say no changes were needed to Florida's election laws.
Some of the provisions of the law have drawn comparison to Georgia's new voter law that was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in March. However, Democrats have said Florida's new law isn't as strict as the one passed by the Georgia Legislature.
What does Florida's new election law say?
One of the most criticized elements of the law concerns the restrictions of when ballot drop boxes can be used, who can collect ballots and how many. To protect against so-called "ballot harvesting," an electoral Good Samaritan can only collect and return the ballots of immediate family and no more than two from unrelated people. Under the new rules, drop boxes must be supervised and would only be available when elections offices and early voting sites are open.
The law also prohibits what the governor calls unsolicited mass mailing of ballots. Ballots will only be sent to the individuals that requested them, and only if requested for each election cycle they intend to vote by mail.
Also, each political party and candidate will have access to observe signature matching reviews by the canvassing board and allows for appointed watchers on their behalf.
The law now requires that a voter making changes to registration data provide an identifying number, possibly a driver's license number or a partial Social Security Number.
Every county will have access to live voter turnout data that will be updated hourly by Supervisors of Elections. SOEs will also be required to post, beginning at 7 p.m. on Election Day, the number of vote-by-mail ballots that have been received and the number of vote-by-mail ballots that remain uncounted. This reporting will be updated at least every hour.
Passage of the law extends a no-influence zone to 150 feet around polling places. Elections officials would have to let candidates and other observers witness some key election night moments in the ballot-handling process. Any violations could prompt hefty fines.
The law prohibits private money from administering elections by prohibiting election supervisors from accepting donations or grants to fund any aspect of election administration or operations.
The proposals signed into law did not include some of the more severe provisions initially put forward by some Republicans, including the outright banning of drop boxes and preventing the use of the U.S. Postal Service for returning completed ballots.