GOP Voting Restrictions Continue
The Florida Senate has passed a broad bill that will trigger many more voting restrictions, as the GOP continues to disenfranchise voters in a critical battleground state.
The Republican-led Senate of Florida advanced a restrictive voting bill on Monday that will limit mail-in voting access and the number of drop boxes available to the public, as well as placing more obstacles in front of registered voters attempting to secure their mail-in ballots. This latest Republican effort to restrict voting access makes Florida the first major swing state, won by Donald Trump in 2020, to enact such restrictions — Governor Ron DeSantis (R) is expected to sign the legislation into law almost immediately.
Once the new legislation is formally enacted, limitations will be placed on the number of drop boxes that will be utilized to collect ballots, and those casting ballots would have to show identification to an election official before a ballot is dropped off.
Other changes to voting practices will include voters being required to apply for mail-in-ballots more frequently, restrictions for those dropping off a ballot at a dropbox, and a complete ban on anyone handing out food and water to citizens waiting in line to vote, except by official election workers.
Republicans, led by Gov. DeSantis, have been pushing the false Trump narrative that Florida elections are not secure and need to be bolstered by these restrictions, despite the evidence to the contrary. On both sides of the aisle, Florida state party leaders have agreed that the latest round of voting in the state went off nearly flawlessly, with results tallied accurately and reported quickly.
Both Democratic and Republican election supervisors also opposed the legislation. “We are against this bill vehemently,” Mark Earley, the Leon County supervisor of elections, told state senators during a hearing on the legislation. “This bill appears to be setting us up for another 2012 when we had long lines, chaos, and confusion,” Early warned.
Voting rights experts also expect some new measures to disproportionately affect voters of color in Florida. Now the state is on the verge of weakening key parts of an extensive voting infrastructure that was painstakingly constructed after the state’s chaotic 2000 election, a system that Republicans seem intent on dismantling to secure better election results.
Democratic State Senator Audrey Gibson and other Black senators have referred to this latest bill as an extension of the lingering aftermath of Jim Crow restrictions. “This bill is just a vindictive way of trying to punish people for an election that some people just didn’t like at the national level," said Gibson, who explained the many stories of historic voter suppression for Black Americans on the floor of the Florida Senate. "Not one indication of fraud, just a lot of folks decided that they were fed up and they wanted to vote."
Democrats made a point to blast their Republican colleagues for propelling Trump's rhetoric and facilitating Trump's "big lie" by enacting this latest law. During floor debate over the Republican restrictions, Democrats referred to this latest plan as a "Georgia light" type of bill, referencing the voting restrictions passed in the neighboring state last month.
“The impact of this is huge,” explained Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott. “This is a flat-out ban that will prevent everyone from dropping off their vote-by-mail ballot to their Supervisor of Elections and amounts to massive voter suppression.”
Florida's latest attempt to disenfranchise voters comes amid a broad, national Republican effort to enact new restrictions on voting at the state level, after former President Trump and his allies continue to make unfounded claims that widespread fraud cost him the election.
The Brennan Center has confirmed that legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states since March 24 of this year. The month of March 2021 saw a new addition of 108 new pieces of proposed legislation since the February 19 tally of 253 — an increase of 43% of new voter restriction laws in just over a month.
While spring saw a significant uptick in new voter suppression laws passed by conservatives in swing states, it appears as if summer purports to be the season for passing overarching laws that will impose many voter restrictions all at once. Republicans are not only continuing their quest to win the next presidential election by any means necessary, but they are also evolving their strategy. The goal of adapting new voter restrictions to be as broad and effective as possible, to disenfranchise Democratic voters, has now been achieved in two critical battleground states.
Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and analyst for BBC Radio. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @mamasreallyrule.
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