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TALLAHASSEE, FL – New restrictions to voting by mail in Florida could endanger the vote of anyone who chooses to use that option, according to voting-rights advocates. Even though Gov. Ron DeSantis touted Florida’s November elections as a model for the nation, he’s backing changes by way of House Bill 7041 and Senate Bill 90.
The bills would require voters to make a new mail-in ballot request for each election cycle. And it would stop an election supervisor from sending a mail-in ballot without a request. Brad Ashwell, Florida state director with the group “All Voting is Local,” said the bills also force a supervisor to only use the most recent signature of a voter on file to verify, which is against the current standard.
“The most recent one’s a scribble and the ten before that all match perfectly the one on file, they’d be able to say, ‘Well, oh yes, this is the person,'” said Ashwell. “This would eliminate that capability, and will lead to voters getting rejected and getting disenfranchised.”
The bills are seeing bipartisan opposition from election supervisors, but are advancing nonetheless in the Republican-controlled Legislature. The Senate version is next up in the Rules Committee on Tuesday, its final stop before a floor vote.
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The bills would ban the use of drop boxes to return mail-in ballots. Unlike Georgia’s GOP-led voting overhaul law, Ashwell said he thinks Florida’s current approach is more piecemeal – and underhanded.
“It seems like they are setting up a process with little ‘gotcha’ provisions,” said Ashwell. “And there will be lots of ways for voters to be challenged, and this is exactly the opposite way that we need to be going.”
Critics say the proposed changes could reduce voter participation in 2022. A study commissioned by All Voting is Local found that, in the 47,000 vote-by-mail ballots flagged for rejection, first-time voters, younger voters, and voters of color were disproportionately affected.
On the flip side, the study showed three in four of those flagged were able to resolve issues through the state’s current cure process.