The House is prepared to pass a controversial bill to place what Republicans call “guardrails” on the election and early voting process.
The proposal (SB 90), carried in the House by Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, is among an onslaught of elections-related legislation being considered or passed by Republican-led legislatures throughout the country. The GOP-backed measures are a response to former President Donald Trump’s election loss to President Joe Biden in November, as millions of people — including in Florida — opted to vote by mail amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida “can’t rest on (its) laurels” despite a successful 2020 cycle when announcing his vision for election changes.
The package, carried in the Senate by Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley, addresses election supervisors’ use of ballot drop boxes, signature matching on mail-in ballots and a host of other technical issues related to voting-by-mail and election administration.
For the first time in Florida, Democrats used vote-by-mail more than Republicans. Democrats contend the election bill would make it harder for people, particularly disadvantaged Floridians, to vote.
“In the state of Florida, you can vote for 45 days — three different ways of voting. It is extremely easy to vote in the state of Florida,” Ingoglia said. “We’re just making sure that nobody is gaming the system, hence, guardrails.”
An amendment Ingoglia filed at 1:33 a.m. Tuesday, hours after the Senate passed the bill 27-13 on Monday, would leave some Senate priorities, but bring certain House provisions back.
The measure would expand the no solicitation zone around polling places and drop boxes to 150 feet. Within that area, people could not attempt to solicit votes, including by handing out items to voters. Election officials and volunteers could distribute items, including water, when offering “nonpartisan assistance.”
That’s in contrast to bans recently signed into law in Georgia, which have drawn opposition from corporations.
“It’s not Georgia, but it’s definitely Georgia-light,” West Park Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones said during debate in the Senate.
The Peach State is facing corporate blowback for its new law. In Florida, DeSantis said the state wouldn’t yield to corporate interests.
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’.
That follows DeSantis’ call to prevent ballot harvesting. Ingoglia couldn’t point to specific examples of ballot harvesting in the 2020 election.
“Just the fact that they weren’t caught doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not happening,” Ingoglia continued. “But having said that, what is wrong with putting guardrails, making sure that we are making this stuff as (hard as) possible to cheat on an election but keeping the access?”
The House’s amendment adds requirements for hourly reporting on voter turnout on Election Day after polls close.
A ban on outside dollars being used by election supervisors, sometimes called “Zuckerbucks” after the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life last year issued grants to elections offices nationwide, is included in the House amendment.
One provision in the Senate version written by Sen. Gary Farmer, the Democratic Leader, and Sen. Debbie Mayfield, the Republican Leader, would prevent third-party candidates from switching their party affiliation at the last minute. That language was inspired by a developing story from the 2020 election in which former Sen. Frank Artiles enlisted a third-party candidate to spoil the election for an incumbent Democrat, according to law enforcement.
The House version does not include that, Ingoglia said, because he viewed that language and similar proposals as “problematic,” particularly the requirement that a prospective candidate who wants to run as non-party affiliated must have not been affiliated for 365 days.
“I think that’s unconstitutional, because how can you tell somebody who just moved to Florida — who hasn’t picked the party, that isn’t governed by party rules — that they can’t run for office because the Legislature, in their infinite wisdom, said that you have to wait a year in order to do so,” Ingoglia said.
Democrats and Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes voted against the bill in the Senate on Monday.