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Lawsuit filed against Florida’s new election law

League of Women Voters of Florida suing to overturn law

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | May 7, 2021

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill which will place new restrictions on voting. The League of Women Voters of Florida is suing to overturn the law. / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

The state legislature passed a change to the state’s election law which was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis after party-line votes in the Republican-controlled legislature. Democrats opposed the measures for being part of a wave of legislation being introduced by Republicans in a host of states which they believe will make it tougher to vote.

The Florida legislation underwent a number of alterations in the past week and received backing from all of the local Republican members.

Voting in favor was Sen. Ray Rodrigues and Adam Botana (R-Bonita Springs), whose districts includes Fort Myers Beach. Other Lee County representatives who voted in favor were Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers), Jenna Persons-Mulicka (R-Fort Myers) and Mike Giallombardo (R-Coral Springs).

Rodrigues said the bill “make it very difficult to cheat.” He said the legislation will create more safeguards for drop box locations. Previously, he said, some counties did not guard drop boxes in the way the election law intended.

Lee County reported no election fraud in November’s presidential election, according to Lee County Supervisor of Elections Tommy Doyle.

Doyle said some of the parts of the original bill he was concerned about, such as one governing the review of signatures, was removed.

He thinks the biggest change voters will feel is the restrictions regarding drop boxes. The law limits the number of ballots somebody can drop off to two outside of their immediate family, Doyle said. There were previously no limits though Doyle said the county didn’t see any large dropoffs of ballots, no more than four or five. He said they typically will be people dropping off ballots from gated communities.

The law requires the drop boxes to be monitored in person during early voting and for the drop boxes to be emptied daily. The law restricts any political activity or soliciting from within 150 feet of a drop box.

The law includes a host of new provisions for mail-in ballots, including that they must be requested for each election.

One of the most controversial aspects of the bill is a provision which will bar partisan groups and volunteers from supplying those standing in line to vote with any food or water. Doyle said workers for his office will still be able to give voters food and water, which they do currently.

The League of Women Voters of Florida , which is suing the state over the new law along with the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, Black Voters Matter Fund and several other Florida voters, and has named every supervisor of election in the state in their suit, has derided that provision regarding the provisions of food and water for voters..

“The League of Women Voters of Florida has fought SB 90 since its introduction, and we’re continuing our fight now,” said Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

“The legislation has a deliberate and disproportionate impact on elderly voters, voters with disabilities, students and communities of color. It’s a despicable attempt by a one party ruled legislature to choose who can vote in our state and who cannot. It’s undemocratic, unconstitutional, and un-American.”

The group that the bill “would not only eliminate Florida’s growth in voter participation, but it would take voting rights backward in the state. The lawsuit challenges provisions in the bill that impose restrictions on vote-by-mail drop boxes, the effective ban on organizations and volunteers from helping voters return their vote-by-mail ballots, and the requirements that force voters to request a vote-by-mail ballot more frequently and ban any non-poll worker from giving food or drink, including water, to voters waiting in line. SB 90 directly impacts third party voter registration organizations like the League of Women Voters and forces them to take certain steps that could discourage Floridians from registering to vote and, as a result, suppress voter turnout.”

In a speech posted on Twitter, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried attacked the bill and the way DeSantis signed it in front of only one media outlet – Fox News.

“He did this in a closed location with only political supporters using our taxpayer dollars with the only camera watching was Fox News. He is using Fox News as a state news source,” Fried said.

“We see this in other locations across the world – China, Venezuela. Authoritarian regimes have state-run presses. Not here in America. Here in America we have the right to vote, we have the right to assemble, we have the freedom of speech and we have the freedom of the media and press but not under this governor’s watch. This governor has taken every opportunity to suppress our vote, suppress our right to protest, to protest his $1 billion tax raise on the people of our state while our capitol is still closed. Nobody was allowed in here and now they can’t even protest these bills. We are no longer a free state,” Fried said.

Among the bill’s other provisions are new provisions regarding whether signatures on requests for mail-in ballots match signatures in the elector’s registration books or precinct register and another new requirements for requesting mail-in ballots. During the signature comparison process, the supervisor is not allowed to have any knowledge of the party affiliation of the voter.

Updates to a voter registration record would require the providing of a date of birth and Florida driver’s license number or identification number from a Florida identification card or the last four digits of the voter’s social security number if the applicant has not been issued a Florida driver license or identification card.

The legislation requires the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to notify the Department of State of any changes in residence addresses on the driver license or the identification card of a voter. The Department of State must report each such change to the appropriate supervisor of elections, who must change the voter’s registration records.

Those running for office under no-party affiliation would also face new restriction under the bill. Any person seeking to qualify for office as a candidate with no party affiliation shall, at the time of subscribing to the oath or affirmation, state in writing that he or she is registered without any party affiliation and that he or she has not been a registered member of any political party for 365 days before the beginning of qualifying preceding the general election for which the person seeks to qualify.

The bill also includes new rules for third-party registration organizations who collect ballots.