by Brian Good
Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of color.
CNN has reported that, following contentious debates in both the Republican-led Florida Senate and House plus a series of last-minute amendments, it all came down to a party-line vote with the bill ultimately passing in both legislative bodies. Gov. Ron DeSantis now has to decide whether he will sign the bill into law.
Among the new voting restrictions contained within Florida’s bill:
Ballot drop-off boxes must now be staffed and will only be available for use during certain hours.
People who want to vote by mail must request ballots every election cycle instead of every two cycles.
It will now be harder to have people pick up a ballot or drop off a ballot on someone else’s behalf, which affects older or lower-income individuals who can’t get out of work to vote and cast their ballot.
Floridians will be required to provide their Florida driver’s license, state identification numbers or the last four digits of their Social Security numbers when requesting mail-in ballots, changing their party affiliations or the name they are registered to vote under.
According to CNN, the bill also adds new ID and signature requirements for voting by mail, expands partisan observation power during ballot tabulation and establishes additional restrictions for the usage of ballot drop boxes during an election.
“This bill is just a vindictive way of trying to punish people for an election that some people just didn’t like at the national level,” said Democrat state Sen. Audrey Gibson.
Referencing the much protested and boycotted anti-voter regulations put in place in Georgia earlier this year, Rep. Michael Greico said, “That bill that was passed in the state just north of us sent us a message, and the response to that bill should let us know we should not be doing this. Please do not Georgia my Florida.”
CNN reported that “several of the most restrictive measures originally in the bill were watered down, but Democrats pointed out that what remains will likely have the greatest impact on low-income and older voters, voters of color and those with disabilities.”
“I think it will target people of color. It will affect them,” state Sen. Randolph Bracy said in an interview with CNN.
“SB 90 is a blatant violation of Floridians’ freedom to vote and represents a direct backlash to last year’s record-breaking turnout,” said Brad Ashwell, Florida State Director for All Voting is Local, in a statement. “By erecting onerous barriers to request and return a vote-by-mail ballot, this legislature has made voting a test of stamina and resources rather than a statement of civic responsibility.”
The new anti-voter restrictions in Florida are just part of an ongoing attack on voter rights across the country. According to calculations from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, there were at least 361 different voting suppression bills introduced within state legislatures in just the first three months of 2021.
by Brian Good