In the 2020 presidential election, more Floridians than ever voted by mail. Now Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wants to make voting by mail more difficult.
At a press conference in Palm Beach Friday, Republican DeSantis announced a proposal for new voting restrictions that would make it difficult for voters to receive and return postal ballot papers in future Florida elections.
In doing so, he joined a wave of state and local officials who have worked to introduce new voting restrictions in the months since the 2020 general election, arguing that these guidelines would make voting safer.
Specifically, DeSantis urged Florida lawmakers to address the issue of “ballot harvesting” (when postal ballots are picked up for delivery at a drop-off location) and ballot boxes to prohibit the sending of ballots to voters who have not requested them. and tighten the rules for applying for a ballot so that motions must be made every election year.
Currently, an email voting request is valid for two general election cycles, according to the Florida ACLU. The change proposed by DeSantis would mean voters will have to do this more often, potentially adding to the logistical barriers to postal voting.
DeSantis also praised Florida’s electoral system in his speech, arguing that the state had the “most transparent and efficient elections in the country,” and noted that Florida – which went for former President Donald Trump in November – got ballots far faster counted as a few other states. However, he claimed the new measures were necessary to ensure the integrity of the elections.
“We have to make sure that we still have the edge,” said DeSantis on Friday. “We have to make sure that our citizens have confidence in the elections.”
However, it is unclear whether its proposed changes, if incorporated into the law, would do much to achieve these goals.
Many of the policies proposed by DeSantis are essentially already in place in its state: Florida does not currently allow bulk emailing of unsolicited ballots, and the state already has significant “voting” restrictions, which it already has DeSantis admitted in his speech.
“We’re not a big state that gets ballots,” he said. “But any kind of loopholes or any kind of space where this could be misused, we want to make sure we deal with it.”
Trump has previously attacked voting slip harvesting as “full of fraud,” which it is not, and the practice is a common Republican hobbyhorse. However, according to the NPR, Trump had a third party cast his vote via email in Florida in 2020.
DeSantis also suggested Friday that Florida may need to find ways to tighten its existing signature compliance law. This requires that the signature on a letter or postal vote match the voter’s signature that has already been stored.
“If there has to be ways to improve signature verification,” said DeSantis, “then we have to.”
Signature verification laws can be problematic, however: signature mismatches can be very subjective, as Atlantic’s David Graham reported last year, and color voters, including demographics, are often rejected at a much higher rate than white voters.
“Fraud is extremely rare,” stresses Graham. “The much greater danger is that legitimate ballots will be thrown away.”
Overall, the 2020 elections in Florida – like the elections in all other states – went without unusual irregularities or widespread fraud. It is unclear how DeSantis’ proposals would improve over the current system.
It is clear, however, that after the 2020 electoral cycle they fit right in with a national trend: after the Republicans have lost control not only of the presidency but also of the Senate, they are making efforts to make voting more difficult.
The Republican solution to losing an election is to make it harder to vote
In the months since the presidential election, Republican lawmakers have relied on Trump’s baseless rhetoric of electoral fraud and quickly introduced new voting restrictions.
According to a February report by the Brennan Center for Justice, “33 states introduced, pre-submitted, or transferred 165 restrictive bills this year (compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).”
Some of these bills, like a move in Georgia that would end early voting on Sunday, are blatantly targeting black voters, who played an important role in calling for Democrats to control the Senate. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution stated Friday, the change would “be a blow to the black churches that host” Souls to the Polls “events on Sunday,” where parishioners are transported by church leaders to polling stations for services.
Others, like a Republican-backed Arizona bill requiring all ballots to be notarized via email, would make it harder for anyone to vote by post.
Many of the states where Republicans are imposing new voting restrictions, including Arizona and Georgia, will host competitive Senate races in 2022.
Arizona Senator Mark Kelly will seek a full six-year term in 2022 after winning a special election in 2020, as will Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, who won his seat in a special election runoff this January.
And Republicans will defend seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Iowa – all three states where Republicans have introduced new voting restrictions – and Florida, where Senator Marco Rubio will stand for re-election.
However, despite the flood of new bills, it is not certain that Republicans will be able to incorporate new voter restrictions into the law. In some states, such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Democratic governors could veto such changes.
And even in Georgia, where Republicans control both the governor’s mansion and the legislature, an anonymous Republican strategist told the Washington Post that such measures could backfire. “There’s still an appetite from many Republicans to do things like this, but it’s not bright,” he said. “It just gives the Democrats a baseball bat to hit us with.”
At the national level, Democrats also have their own plan to expand voting rights and protect voters: the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, named after the late civil rights activist who ruled a Georgia district in the House of Representatives until his death last year represented.
According to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill would restore key portions of the 1965 Suffrage Act, portions of which were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 to “protect the right to vote for all Americans. ”
There is also the For The People Act, which was reintroduced on the first day of the new Congress in 2021. If passed, the law would be expanded ahead of time and voted by email, making it easier to register for voting, and the partisans ending gerrymandering, among other changes.
“You know our work is far from finished,” said Lewis in 2019. “It makes me sad. I want to cry when people are denied the right to vote. We all know this is not a Democratic or Republican issue: it’s an American one. “