Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed a Republican-backed election integrity law that places some restrictions on ballot drop-boxes and mail-in ballots.
When signing the bill, the Republican governor said that it would place Florida ahead of other states in preventing any potential voter fraud.
“Right now I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country,” he said. “We’re also banning ballot harvesting. We’re not going to let political operatives go and get satchels of votes and dump them in some drop box.”
The bill (pdf) would require signature verification for voters; use a “wet signature” physically signed on paper kept on file; revise distance limits for people at polling places, early voting sites, and related sites; have election workers monitor ballot drop boxes; and include more identification requirements for dropping off ballots.
The legislation also would place limits on who can return a finished mail-in ballot, prevent election officials from entering consent agreements, and it will require voters to submit yearly requests for mail-in ballots, according to the text of the bill.
“Drop boxes must be geographically located so as to provide all voters in the county with an equal opportunity to cast a ballot,” the bill states, adding that they “must be monitored in person.”
And the “prohibition on the use of private funds for election-related expenses” is an apparent response to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other groups having provided funding to some states and locals last year to help run elections. Republicans have expressed concern that the funding mostly targeted Democrat-aligned areas and hurt the GOP.
“Me signing this bill here says, ‘Florida, your vote counts. Your vote is going to cast with integrity and transparency, and this is a great place for democracy,’” DeSantis noted Thursday.
Several Democrat-aligned groups, corporate news outlets, and even corporations panned the bill as being unfairly restrictive, while the NAACP and Common Cause have said they would immediately file a lawsuit in court alleging that it disenfranchises black, Latino, and disabled people.
“We’re actively trying to suppress people’s right to vote,” Democrat state Rep. Michele Rayner said April 28 on the state House floor, alleging the measure would be the “revival of Jim Crow in this state,” without elaborating or providing evidence of the claim.
Democrats have been unilaterally opposed to the election measures signed by DeSantis and Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, as well bills that are being currently debated in Texas and Arizona. After Kemp signed Georgia’s bill several weeks ago, multinational corporations like Delta and Coca-Cola—and their CEOs—waded into the fracas and echoed claims made by Democrats saying the bill would disenfranchise minority voters, prompting calls from Republican lawmakers to reject funding from such companies.
Kemp and Republicans also said that the Democrat talking points about the Georgia bill were misleading, saying that “it’s easier to vote in Georiga” with the new law “than it is in New York.”
Minutes after DeSantis signed the bill, Democrat election attorney Marc Elias said his team filed a lawsuit challenging the bill on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Black Voters Matters Fund, and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans.
“SB 90 does not impede all of Florida’s voters equally,” the lawsuit alleged. “It is crafted to and will operate to make it more difficult for certain types of voters to participate in the state’s elections, including those voters who generally wish to vote with a vote-by-mail ballot and voters who have historically had to overcome substantial hurdles to reach the ballot box, such as Florida’s senior voters, youngest voters, and minority voters.”
But conservative groups praised the measure.
“Governor DeSantis has led the fight for election integrity reforms in Florida every step of the way. We applaud the governor for signing SB 90 this morning, a strong bill that will ensure it remains easy to vote and hard to cheat in the Sunshine State,” Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action, said in a statement on Thursday.