Florida Voter Suppression Law Not Quite As Awful As Georgia's, So Hooray?
After Florida managed to hold a perfectly ordinary, non-fraudy election in November, the Florida state legislature yesterday passed a raft of stupid voting restrictions to make sure nobody in the state got too many funny ideas about voting being easy or for everyone. After all, even though Donald Trump won Florida by three percentage points and the voting was remarkably free of fracas and hullabaloo, in Florida of all places, all the other GOP-run states are cracking down on clean elections, so Florida didn't want to be left out. The Associated Press doesn't downplay the irony of the bill's passage:
The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who just months ago touted the efficiency and security of the presidential election in one of the nation's most politically important states. He is expected to sign it.
The bill is particularly tough on voting by mail, which reflects Trump's insistence that absentee voting is terribly prone to fraud except when Floridians were voting for him.
Like the awful Georgia voter suppression law, Florida's new Fuck-you to voters ended up being somewhat less horrible than the earliest proposals Republican legislators proposed, thanks to public outrage at the early suggestions. They originally called for the complete elimination of absentee ballot drop boxes but settled for an arrangement in which drop boxes could only be used during early-voting hours, which kind of misses the point of "drop box" in the first place. In addition, the bill bans the use of mobile drop boxes, requires that the boxes be staffed by county poll workers, and limits which family members are allowed to drop off ballots for a familiy member. The bill does generously allow people to turn in as many as two non-family members' ballots, though we have to assume Republicans would prefer anyone doing that to submit to a DNA test and a transvaginal ultrasound, regardless of gender.
Oh yes, and if an election official leaves a drop box accessible outside the prescribed hours, they could be fined up to $25,000. But smile! It's only a civil penalty, not a criminal offense.
And this is a fun one that couldn't possibly be designed to throw voting into chaos: Currently, people only have to request absentee ballots once every four years. The new law changes that interval to every two-year general election cycle, so if someone requested a mail-in ballot be sent to them in 2020, they'll have to request another for the 2022 midterms. If they foolishly forget or didn't know that the rules changed, they'll be in for a real surprise if they wonder where their ballot is in two years.
On top of that, people requesting an absentee ballot will need to meet tougher identification reqirements, not that Florida has been plagued with any absentee ballot fraud.
All this in a state where some 40 percent of voters chose to vote by mail in 2020's general election, and where Donald and Melania Trump both voted by absentee ballot in the primary election.
While the lege was at it, NBC News reports, Republicans added in a provision allowing Gov. Ron DeSantis
leeway to appoint replacements to fill certain local political positions vacated by people running for higher office.
Democrats say the last provision is targeted at local officials looking to run in a special election to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, whose death left an opening in the Democratic-heavy Miami area. Democratic state Sen. Audrey Gibson said the measure was an "attempt to create a monarchy" by giving the governor more power.
Gosh, it's getting to where a party can't take away the ability of people to choose their own representatives without some hotheaded Democrat claiming that's bad for democracy.
The bill also includes its own variation on Georgia's ridiculous ban on volunteers giving food or water to people waiting in the long lines this mess will result in. Originally, the bill
would have prohibited handing out any items to voters within 150 feet of polling places, including food and water, except by elections officials.
The legislation would now ban anyone from "engaging in any activity with the intent to influence or effect of influencing a voter" but allow election supervisors to provide "non-partisan assistance," such as giving items to voters within the restricted zones.
That still sounds unnecessary; we'll have to see if anyone gets accused of distributing partisan pizza to people standing in lines.
Republicans said there's no reason for anyone to get upset, because after all, all they're doing is making elections "more secure." Mind you, the New York Times points out that there's no evidence Florida's recent elections have been insecure at all, particularly since Florida voting officials have been working for two decades to fix the problems that embarrassed the state so much in 2000.
Data requested by lawmakers themselves suggested there was little need for the legislation. The Republican-led House Public Integrity and Elections Committee surveyed the state's 67 election supervisors in February, asking them about past elections. Almost all of the supervisors responded and said that, over the past four years, they had reported very few instances of possible fraud — one of lawmakers' stated reasons for pushing the legislation — and that most of their drop boxes were already monitored, through either physical or video surveillance, public records show.
"It seems like the Legislature is ignoring — I would say deliberately ignoring — the facts that they have in their possession," said Stephen F. Rosenthal of Miami, who is part of a group of Democratic lawyers that requested the records. The group also queried elected state prosecutors about voter fraud, finding a minuscule number of prosecuted cases.
One genius supporter of the bill, Republican state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, couldn't actually point to any examples of fraud that the new restrictions would prevent, but he figures making voting a lot harder should fix the problems he couldn't actually point to:
"I don't know, but I'm sure it was going on," Mr. Ingoglia responded to a question on the House floor about any reported instances of illegal ballot collection. "Just the fact that they weren't caught doesn't necessarily mean that it's not happening."
Well, that's a very compelling argument, at least by Twitter standards of evidence.
We're looking forward to Florida Republicans' next steps to protect the state's voters from imaginary threats. Perhaps they'll require 2022 voters to keep a banana in their ear, so the polls won't be attacked by tigers.
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