Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a contentious new law Thursday that state Republicans believe strengthens electoral protection, while critics say it’s yet another bill intended to make it more difficult for millions of people to engage in the political process.
During a campaign rally in West Palm Beach, the Republican governor signed the measure. The bill was approved by the Florida Legislature last week.
“Florida took action this legislative session to increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections,” DeSantis said in a statement.
“Floridians can rest assured that our state will remain a leader in ballot integrity. Elections should be free and fair and these changes will ensure this continues to be the case in the Sunshine State.”
To accept a mail vote, Florida residents must now display a driver’s licence number, state ID number, or a portion of their Social Security number, according to the current legislation. It also restricts ballot drop boxes to early voting days and hours unless they are located at the supervisor’s office and are staffed at all times.
This year, Florida follows Georgia in enacting new rules aimed at tightening civil rights. Critics say it’s a reaction to former President Donald Trump’s defeat to Vice President Joe Biden last fall, which was fuelled by a massive swell of mail votes in support of Biden around the country.
As a result, Georgia has suffered major economic consequences as a result of the legislation.
A list of progressive groups have fought against the law and announced plans to file lawsuits, including one by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matters Fund and Florida Alliance for Retired Americans.
“The legislation has a deliberate and disproportionate impact on elderly voters, voters with disabilities, students and communities of color,” said Patricia Brigham, president of the LWVF. 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 NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund also filed a federal lawsuit, with assistant counsel Zachery Morris accusing the Florida Legislature of erecting hurdles for disabled, Black and Latino voters.
And the League of United Latin American Citizens said it plans to sue and ask the Department of Justice to investigate the Republican sponsors of the law for violating the civil and criminal laws.
“It is very clear to any reasonable person that Florida’s Republican-controlled State Senate has passed a series of unconstitutional measures,” the league’s national president, Domingo Garcia, said.
“Gov. DeSantis paid homage to Donald Trump by signing Florida’s new election law disguised as a response to false claims by Republicans that November’s election was rigged,” Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., said in a statement. “In reality, this is part of a nationwide effort by Republicans to suppress the votes of Black Americans.”
Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., revealed earlier this week that he intends to run against DeSantis for re-election next year. Crist served as Florida’s governor from 2007 to 2011.
Meanwhile, according to CNBC, all local media sources except Fox News were barred from covering DeSantis’ signing ceremony on Thursday.
“The news media is barred from attending Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of the contentious elections bill, SB 90. Taryn Fenske, a DeSantis spokesperson, says the bill signing is a ‘Fox exclusive.’ “Steve Bousquet, a reporter for the Florida Sun Sentinel, tweeted.