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DeSantis signs elections bill, imposing restrictions on voting by mail, drop boxes

Signing an election bill that has been met with opposition, Gov. Ron DeSantis staged a video opp that was exclusive.
Signing an election bill that has been met with opposition, Gov. Ron DeSantis staged a video opp that was exclusive.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial elections bill, Senate Bill 90, into law Thursday morning during an event in West Palm Beach.

“Florida took action this legislative session to increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections,” the governor said. “Floridians can rest assured that our state will remain a leader in ballot integrity. Elections should be free and fair, and these changes will ensure this continues to be the case in the Sunshine State. I’d like to thank our legislative leaders on this issue – Senate President Wilton Simpson, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, Senator Dennis Baxley, and Representative Blaise Ingoglia.”

The legislation prohibits the mass mailing of ballots, bans ballot harvesting and prohibits private money from administering elections in the Sunshine State.

The legislation also only makes ballot drop boxes available when early voting sites are open and the drop boxes would have to be supervised by election officials.

Identification will also be required to obtain a vote-by-mail ballot.

Republican lawmakers acknowledge that that the elections law lays out a conservative movement narrative to the party faithful. Perhaps that is why the only press allowed to cover the event was a conservative cable news network that got an exclusive it reportedly hadn’t asked for.

DeSantis signs elections bill, imposing new restrictions, regulations

“It was very Trumplican like and it’s going to be DeSantican-like,” said Andrew Brett who attended the invitation only signing, a Trump 45 fan club event.

For some counties, like Miami-Dade, some of these measures were already being implemented.

“I think all the governors should be following his lead,” Esther Kosoffsky, who attended Thursday’s event, said.

Hundreds of people began lining up around 6:30 a.m. to watch the governor sign the bill, which he signed live on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”

The event at the Hilton by Palm Beach International Airport was a ticketed event and was only allowed to be filmed by Fox News.

“We are very much in line with his thoughts and feelings for Floridians,” another attendee, Mitchel Kay, said.

Under the new law, Supervisors of Elections will be required to update live voter turnout data hourly, which each county would have access to.

SOEs will also be required to post the number of vote-by-mail ballots that have been received and the number of vote-by-mail ballots that remain uncounted beginning at 7 p.m. on Election Day. The data will be updated at least every hour.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried held a news conference after the bill was signed to voice her opposition to it.

“Where was the reason for this piece of legislation?” she asked. “The only fraud that I saw was by the Republicans, but yet, we needed this piece of legislation? And he needed to take the state plane and fly down to Mar-a-Lago in front of Trump supporters to sign this piece of legislation because we know that the only reason why this piece of legislation was passed and signed was for one person.”

(See the complete Senate Bill 90 below)

Republicans say the legislation is needed to guard against fraud after former President Donald Trump made unfounded claims that the presidential election was stolen from him.

Democrats say the move is a partisan attempt to keep some voters from the ballot box.

“The fact is that it will lead to fewer people being able to vote, fewer people being able to register to vote and fewer people being able to have their ballot count once it’s already sent in,” said Abdelilah Skhir, of Florida’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Currently, vote-by-mail applications are valid for two election cycles, but the new bill calls for one.

“Forces you to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot twice as often as you normally would,” Skhir said.

He said along with limiting the use of drop-off boxes, the bill would prevent people from giving out food and water at voting locations.

“Democrats, Republicans, Independents, our supervisor of elections — everyone can agree on that our elections went extremely smooth [last year],” Skhir said.

Just a few months ago, DeSantis himself touted the 2020 election in Florida.

“Florida had the most transparent and efficient election anywhere in the country,” the governor said.


About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."