The Florida House could soon vote on a measure Republicans say would increase election security, particularly around drop boxes.
By a 16-8 vote, the House State Affairs Committee gave the final preliminary approval before the full House could consider the controversial bill (HB 7041).
Democrats contend the stricter voting laws would make it harder for voters to use drop boxes.
“We have 45 days of voting in the state Florida, three ways of voting,” Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the Spring Hill Republican carrying the bill, told the committee. “Anyone who says we’re restricting access to the ballot, I’m sorry, it’s just not accurate.”
The bill comes despite Republicans, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, touting Florida’s 2020 election cycle as one of the smoothest and most secure in recent history. Ingoglia helped spearhead the state’s original drop box law, first used during the 2020 election cycle.
“We should use every election as an opportunity to look back and identify things that we can do better,” Ingoglia said.
Similar to a new election law that has come under fire in Georgia, the Spring Hill Republican’s bill would prevent people from attempting to influence a person’s vote within 150 feet of a drop box or polling place entrance. That would include a candidate handing out food or water to voters standing in line.
Voting sites could only keep boxes available to the public during voting hours, and boxes must always be monitored by Supervisor of Elections personnel during those hours. During off-hours, offices could use security cameras to monitor secured boxes.
The bill would allow people to carry an immediate family member’s ballot, including those of grandparents. It would also allow people to carry two other ballots in addition to their own and their immediate family members’.
A voter would have to sign an attestation designating whoever is carrying their ballot as a legal handler.
West Palm Beach Democratic Rep. Omari Hardy questioned the need to limit who could drop off a person’s ballot.
“If the ballot made it into the drop box and it has all the stuff on it that it needs to have — my signature matches, it’s my ballot — I don’t see why that shouldn’t be counted,” Hardy said.
Republicans have pushed for ballot-carrying restrictions to prevent volunteers from collecting ballots in a practice called ballot harvesting.
“We believe in this bill that you should not be able to carry anyone else’s legal ballot without having the authority to do so,” Ingoglia replied.
Ballot signatures would have to match a recorded signature from the last eight years, which Ingoglia said would create a limited pool of signatures to compare to. However, it takes “beyond a reasonable doubt” for a canvassing board to invalidate a ballot based on signature mismatch.
“It’s an extremely high bar to kick out a signature,” Ingoglia said.
A provision added in an amendment Monday would allow the Governor to fill a vacancy left by local elected officials who resign to run for another office if the office is made vacant within 28 months of the next general election.
“We’re taking away the special treatment for politicians who resign for political purposes,” Ingoglia told reporters after the meeting. “If a politician would have resigned to retire, it would have been governed this way.”
The Senate Rules Committee is expected to vote on Sen. Dennis Baxley‘s version of the bill (SB 90) on Tuesday. The committee ran out of time during a meeting last week to consider the Ocala Republican’s bill after he heavily amended it to bring it closer in line with the House bill.
Baxley’s version would not allow election supervisors to use cameras to monitor drop boxes during off-hours. They would have to watch them during early voting hours.