Today’s debate against Florida Senate Bill 90 followed Democrat’s narrative last week characterizing legislation put forward by Republicans as reminiscent of “Jim Crow.”
Last week it was House Bill 1 Combating Public Disorder. This week it’s Senate Bill (SB) 90, Election Administration.
Senator Audrey Gibson (D-District 6) said during Senate floor debate on the bill, “Why do we need a bill that does absolutely nothing? I believe it is a trick. We should not put up any more impediments to vote.”
Senator Perry Thurston (D-District 33) said, “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. Why do we want to make it more difficult to vote? (This bill) is a modern-day version of voter suppression in the state of Florida.”
But Republicans argued that the legislation will enhance election security and “codifies” executive orders issued by Governor Ron DeSantis amid the pandemic, including orders that gave supervisors of elections more time to count mail-in ballots.
“The goal for everybody is to make it as easy as possible to vote and as hard as possible to cheat,” Senator Joe Gruters (R-District 23) argued.
He said he took issue with the depiction of the bill as voter suppression, “This does nothing to suppress the vote. It does nothing to restrict the vote. What we’re trying to do is make sure that we preserve our sacred duty and right of having every vote count.”
SB 90 makes changes to the Florida election code. According to staff analysis of the bill, instead of a request for vote-by-mail (VBM) being good for two election cycles, it is reduced to one. It limits a person’s lawful possession of a VBM ballot to his or her own, those of his or her immediate family, and two others, and expands the definition of “immediate family” to include a grandchild. It prohibits a governmental entity from mailing or otherwise providing a VBM ballot without a request and requires that a voter’s signature be verified against a signature within the preceding four years. It also limits the use of drop boxes to a county’s early voting hours of operation and requires drop boxes at all locations to be monitored in person. The bill creates additional security and accountability measures related to drop boxes and prohibits anyone other than election staff from giving any item to a voter within the no-solicitation zone at polling locations, except that supervisors’ staff may still provide needed items to voters within the nosolicitation zone. It also increases transparency by creating new requirements for real-time election data reporting, and makes other administrative changes intended to facilitate election administration.
Democrats insist the bill aims to keep minority voters from voting. “Florida has the worse record of voter suppression in the country,” said Senator Randolf Bracy (D-District 11), “and this narrative is consistent with suppression. I believe we are just continuing an ugly legacy.”
But Republicans countered saying the legislation is needed to ensure the security and transparency of Florida’s elections, “One ballot of fraud is too many. Every vote should count that is legal and done correctly,” Senator Travis Hutson (R-District 7) said.
Republicans said Floridians have a number of ways to cast ballots, including in-person on Election Day, in person during early voting, through mail-in ballots and manned drop boxes.
“Voters have to plan for elections,” said Senator Jim Boyd, R-District 21) “Elections don’t sneak up on us. We know when that election is going to be. Along with our right to vote, it is also our responsibility to prepare to vote.”
The bill passed 23 to 17.
The state’s supervisors of election overwhelmingly opposed this bill from when it was first introduced – and 48 of the 67 counties are Republican.