Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 90 Thursday, an election reform bill which adds more voting requirements for vote by mail ballots and limits the use of drop boxes. Opponents of the law have already filed two major lawsuits in a Tallahassee court.
The political storm around SB 90 is immense. The changes are tweaks to current law which critics say will make it more difficult to vote.
Much of this effort stems from the 2020 election. Former President Trump continues to say he won the election when he did not. He claims massive amounts of voter fraud altered the outcome when it did not.
Afterward, Republican legislatures and governors across the country began efforts to limit mail-in ballots and added steps to vote in the next election.
They claim their effort to increase “election integrity” and weed out the rare instances of voter fraud.
“This is a modification, not a major overhaul of elections in Florida. But the concern is it’s going in the wrong direction,” Sean Foreman, political science professor at Barry University, said.
Foreman says Governor DeSantis and Republicans see this as a proactive measure because there were no major issues running the 2020 election in Florida. Since the bill creates additional steps and regulations to vote, it will likely have an impact on turnout.
“All of this is about expanding or contracting the eligible voter pool moving forward. And that’s why the stakes are so high,” Foreman said.
The biggest change comes to vote-by-mail ballots. Voters now must give a driver’s license number, state ID numbers or last four digits of a social security number to request a vote-by-mail ballot. Voters must request them every two year election cycle instead of every four years.
Supervisors of elections across the state opposed the law in part because it limits vote-by-mail drop boxes to early voting days and hours. Those drop boxes must have a human worker at them during operations.
“It’s understandable that people are worked up because elections have consequences. It matters who wins. And determining who wins, it matters who’s eligible and who can get their hands on a ballot,” Foreman said.
Who will this impact the most? The elderly. They are the most frequent users of vote-by-mail ballots in Florida and critics say the new measures could confuse or discourage them from requesting mail in ballots. Floridians have been able to request vote-by-mail ballots for years.
Signed on FOX
“We’re making sure we’re enforcing voting ID. Look, you have to show picture-ID for all these other things in society, clearly voting!” Governor DeSantis said at a bill signing live shot on Fox News’s Fox and Friends network show.
No other media outlets were allowed at the signing, hosted by a fan club for former President Trump.
Fox News is a key outlet for Republican voters and has produced conservative content for years. Governor DeSantis has high marks from Republican voters in Florida who watch Fox News. Many of those voters list election integrity as one of their top priorities according to public opinion surveys.
DeSantis signed the bill in Palm Beach County, not open to the general public.
“It was on national TV. It wasn’t secret,” Governor DeSantis said to a reporter leaving the signing.
“We were happy to give them ( FOX ) the exclusive on that. I think it went really, really well. And that’s broadcast throughout the whole country but a huge number of people in Florida are watching that.”
After the bill signing ceremony, DeSantis’s campaign sent out an email to supporters touting the new changes.
Throughout the day, DeSantis critics, including his opponent in the race for Governor, Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Florida, and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, sent out campaign content agains the law.
“Florida is becoming less free and less democratic,” Commissioner Fried wrote on Twitter.
Rep. Crist called it “pathetic” in a statement.
Two major lawsuits have already been filed in response to SB 90 becoming law. One is from the League of Women Voters, the Black Voters Matter Fund, and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans.
Another lawsuit was filed by the NAACP, the Legal Defense and Education Fund, Common Cause, and Disability Rights Florida.
The NAACP is suing the State of Florida over Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We should be expanding voting access to strengthen democracy, instead of imposing more restrictions that make it harder for historically disenfranchised communities to participate in elections. Increasing limitations on drop boxes, and making it harder to vote by mail is un-American and undemocratic,” wrote NAACP spokesperson Jonah Bryson.
The League of Women Voters is also suing over the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
“Now, there’s no need for this. What we have in place is working and working very well in Florida. Why add an extra burden on the voter,” Patricia Brigham from the League of Women Voters said.
For Brigham, a key provision of the bill they filed suit over its limit on what volunteer groups and political parties can do for people waiting to vote in line; banning handing them campaign material but also food and water within 150 feet of a ballot box. Supporters of the bill say it would sway or impact their vote. Brigham disagrees.
“We don’t think that passing out water to thirsty voters who are in hot lines is bothering them. We think it’s the humane thing to do,” Brigham said.
The elections in 2022 in Florida include the race for Governor and U.S. Senator.