Spotlight On Florida Voting Law As Texas Democrats Flee State
After Texas State Democratic lawmakers fled the Lonestar State to slow down and protest the passage of new voting restrictions, similar laws across the country are under the spotlight, including one in Florida that went into effect this May.
Senate Bill 90, which passed through both chambers of the Florida State Legislature along partisan lines, places new restrictions on mail-in-voting, drop boxes, and who can turn in and request ballots.
Under the new 48-page law, voters may only request mail-in ballots for one general election cycle, which happens every 2 years. Previously, voters who requested mail-in ballots got them for two general election cycles (4 years).
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, election officials in several states made emergency changes to the voting process without action by state lawmakers, such as sending out mail-in ballots to every voter regardless of whether or not they requested one. SB 90 preemptively makes this illegal, and requires that election supervisors in Florida send mail-in ballots only to eligible voters who’ve made a request for one.
Registering for a mail-in ballot also now requires more verification. Previously, prospective voters could request a mail-in ballot over the phone or through a written request. SB 90 expands this to allow voters to make the request in person. However, while voters just needed to provide their name, address and date of birth before, they now need to provide one of three additional documents to prove their identity: Their Florida Drivers License number, their Florida issued ID card number, or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
Drop boxes, which have typically served as a way for voters to turn in their mail-in ballots during times when election offices are closed, also have changed operational guidelines under the legislation.
Drop boxes at the office of a county’s Supervisor of Elections may be open for as long as a paid employee of the Supervisor is monitoring it. Election officials face stiff penalties any time they allow voters to access and deposit ballots at a drop box that is not being monitored in person.
At locations that aren’t the Supervisor of Elections’ office, such as early voting sites, drop boxes for mail-in ballots may only be open for the duration of early voting hours — when voters can just cast a regular ballot anyway — and must also be constantly monitored in-person by an employee of the Supervisor while it is accessible to voters.
The law also seeks to mandate equity in how drop boxes are distributed, requiring election officials to place them “so as to provide all voters in the county with an equal opportunity to cast a ballot.”
Election officials must select locations for drop boxes at least 30 days before an election.
The new law also impacts how third-parties can turn in and request ballots on behalf of others. Excluding immediate family members, a voter can only turn in up to two ballots, not counting their own. Requesting a ballot on behalf of another person also requires the requester to provide a name, date of birth, and a third form of identification, such as a Florida Driver’s License or Social Security number, along with the same information for the intended voter in order to get the ballot.
Third-party organizations are also mandated to be more transparent and disclose more information to voters who register through them. The law requires third-party groups to inform voters how to register to vote online or by mail. It also requires that voting applications be turned in to the county where the voter is from within 14 days of the application being filled out for it to be valid.
Other changes in the law include requiring a new voter registration application for a legal name change or a change in party affiliation, how elections officials are allowed to settle civil cases against voting laws and stricter limitations on candidates in partisan elections and candidates seeking to run with No Party Affiliation.
As of June, there were four lawsuits filed against the state to strike down the law before the next election cycle.