Friday, 30 April 2021

Florida joins Georgia in passing new election laws to 'guardrail' against fraud following difficult 2020 election

 Florida's legislature on Thursday followed Georgia's lead and passed a bill that makes it harder to access drop boxes and mail-in ballots, the latest Republican-led state to push for what GOP supporters say is a 'guardrail' against fraud.

Republicans cite former President Donald Trump's claims that President Joe Biden stole the November election as reasons for the sweeping measures. 

Judges discredited such claims, made without evidence, in more than 60 lawsuits that failed to overturn the election result.

Democrats say the Republican measures are designed to lessen the impact of Black voters, whose heavy turnout helped propel Biden to victory and delivered Democrats two US Senate victories in Georgia in January. 

Georgia passed major new voting restrictions in March. After those measures were signed into law by Republican Governor Brian Kemp, several companies expressed their displeasure.

Florida's legislature on Thursday followed Georgia's lead and passed a bill that makes it harder to access drop boxes and mail-in ballots, the latest Republican-led state to push for what GOP supporters say is a 'guardrail' against fraud. The legislature is seen above in Tallahassee on Wednesday

Florida's legislature on Thursday followed Georgia's lead and passed a bill that makes it harder to access drop boxes and mail-in ballots, the latest Republican-led state to push for what GOP supporters say is a 'guardrail' against fraud. The legislature is seen above in Tallahassee on Wednesday

Republicans claim that the new measures will safeguard against voter fraud

Republicans claim that the new measures will safeguard against voter fraud

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill into law

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill into law

Major League Baseball yanked this summer’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta to shows its displeasure with the new statute.

There were calls to take the Masters from Augusta National, but the club ignored the outcry and its chairman, on the eve of golf’s first major championship in 2021, declined to take a stand on the bill. 


Atlanta-based corporations like Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola put out statements protesting the new law. 

The bill in neighboring Florida, also a political battleground, includes stricter requirements about drop box staffing and requires voters to apply more frequently for mail-in ballots.

The bill also stipulates a widening of the 'no-solicitation' area around polling places and expands the definition of solicitations to include 'the giving, or attempting to give, any item to a voter by certain persons.' 

Rights groups warn that will dissuade activists from handing out water and food to voters standing in long lines in the often-sweltering state.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill into law.

Marc Elias, a Democratic lawyer who is representing a coalition of civil rights groups suing Georgia over its voting restrictions, tweeted that the Florida business community should have stood up against the bill.

Republican Governor Brian Kemp signs the law S.B. 202, a restrictive voting law that activists have said aimed to curtail the influence of Black voters who were instrumental in state elections that helped Democrats win the White House and narrow control of the U.S. Senate

Republican Governor Brian Kemp signs the law S.B. 202, a restrictive voting law that activists have said aimed to curtail the influence of Black voters who were instrumental in state elections that helped Democrats win the White House and narrow control of the U.S. Senate

Georgia Gov. Kemp signs controversial election bill amid protest
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'These voter suppression laws are targeted at Black, Brown and young voters,' Elias tweeted. 

'Bill now heads to Governor's desk. Watch this space for more news once it is signed.' 

After praising Florida's elections as a national model, the state's Republican lawmakers moved to rewrite a litany of rules they said would enhance the integrity of future elections despite critics who called that a partisan attempt to keep some voters from the ballot box.

The influence of voters who cast ballots by mail wasn't lost in the nationally watched debate in a state that has significant sway in the country's balance of power.


Republicans and Democrats alike have praised Florida's most recent elections as other key states floundered on election night in November.

DeSantis has pushed for changes in the state's election laws as part of an effort by Republicans nationwide to overhaul rules after last November's presidential contest in which Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

Much of the debate focused on vote-by-mail ballots and how they are collected and returned.

Republicans called the GOP-written measure 'guardrails' against fraud, while Democrats argued that the new rules were designed to make it more inconvenient, if not more difficult, for some to cast ballots - particularly among Black voters and less experienced voters.

The measure passed Thursday - and headed to the governor for his signature - was far different from some of the more severe measures proposed initially, including an outright ban on ballot drop boxes and a requirement to present identification when dropping off those ballots.

Still, Democrats had Georgia on their minds in decrying the rule changes that remained, including a prohibition against groups that distribute food and water to voters waiting to vote - although the prohibition would not apply to elections officials.

'We've never said that any nonprofit organization was trying to influence folks,' said Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican who helped secure the bill's passage. 

'What we're saying in the bill is that the intent of the no-solicitation zone in that language is to make sure that nobody is trying to influence the vote while they are in line.'

Georgia's sweeping rewrite of its election rules has prompted alarm among Democrats and voting rights advocates in Florida and elsewhere, who object to new identification requirements that critics said would make once-routine changes to voter registration information more inconvenient.

'We had, as our the Republican governor said, one of the best operated elections in the country, and yet today, the majority party through last minute maneuvers passed a voter suppression bill past a voter suppression bill mimicking what took place in Georgia,' said Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani.

If signed into the law, drop boxes would only be available when early voting sites are open. 

In some counties, voters could use the drop boxes at anytime of the day to submit their completed ballots.

A central focus of the debate is on voting by mail, including the use of drop boxes and so-called 'ballot harvesting.' 

The latter is a practice Republicans have long sought to limit because of their worry that outside groups could tamper with the completed ballots they collect.

Additionally, those drop boxes would have to be supervised by elections officials.

Not long ago, Republicans had the upper hand on voting by mail. 

But Democrats worries that the pandemic would keep voters from casting on election day, prompting the party to make an aggressive push to get people to vote early, particularly by mail.

Last fall, Florida Democrats outvoted Republicans by mail by 680,000 more absentee ballots.

More than 11 million Floridians cast ballots in the November elections, with 4.8 million voting by mail - a record number that accounted for about 44 per cent of the votes cast statewide. 

Trump still carried Florida by about 3 per cent, but the Democratic advantage in absentee voting prompted worry among Republicans who once had the upper hand in voting by mail.

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