By Fred Lucas | The Daily Signal
Florida, the nation’s third-most populous state, could join scores of other states in enacting election reforms as the state Senate advanced a bill Monday to apply the same voter ID requirements to absentee balloting as in-person voting.
The proposal, which awaits action in the Florida House of Representatives, is similar to a measure that passed as part of Georgia’s new election law.
About two-thirds of Americans, or 66%, say they support applying voter ID requirements to absentee voting, according to a poll by the Honest Elections Project.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, backs the legislation.
“Gov. DeSantis is supportive of SB 90, which, if passed, will ensure that Florida remains a national leader in election security, integrity and transparency,” press secretary Cody McCloud told The Daily Signal in a statement Tuesday.
However, critics of the Florida legislation claim the bill adds up to “voter suppression.”
“Instead of upholding the fundamental right to vote, certain Florida senators have decided to become accomplices to the nationwide voter suppression scheme underway by passing this undemocratic bill,” Kara Gross, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said in a public statement. “They are suppressing the right to vote by obstructing access to vote-by-mail.”
The Florida bill would restrict ballot harvesting, the practice in which campaign operatives collect large numbers of absentee ballots from voters. In 2018, a North Carolina congressional race was voided over a scandal involving ballot harvesting.
The proposed restriction on ballot harvesting would allow a person to collect absentee ballots for immediate family members, but no more than two ballots from those who aren’t family members.
The poll by the Honest Elections Project found that 62% of voters surveyed say they oppose political operatives having direct access to absentee voters while they vote.
The bill in the Florida Senate differs slightly from the House bill, which would prohibit private entities from funding election administration, as occurred with the Mark Zuckerberg-financed Center for Tech and Civic Life grants to localities before the 2020 election.
Both Georgia and Arizona have enacted bans on private money funding administration of elections.
“As Florida lawmakers work to pass legislation to safeguard their elections and promote voter confidence, they should be sure to prioritize several elements,” Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action for America, said in a public statement, adding:
Most importantly, they should act to prohibit outside, private funding of elections. No official should accept any outside funds for election-related expenses—elections are the exclusive responsibility of the government, and private money creates partisan incentives and the appearance of corruption.
Heritage Action is the lobbying arm of The Heritage Foundation, parent organization of The Daily Signal.
The Florida legislation will have to pass both houses of the Legislature by the end of the week, noted Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy for the James Madison Institute, a Florida-based conservative think tank.
“These are principles we have by and large been supportive of before this legislative session, and that is to make it as easy to access a ballot as can be afforded while making fraudulent ballots as minimal as possible,” Nuzzo told The Daily Signal.
Just as Georgia faced backlash for its recent election reforms, Florida likely also will, Nuzzo said.
“I would expect a little of the same backlash with woke corporatism being what it is, but I wouldn’t expect as much of it. Florida has a really good election system,” Nuzzo said. “The changes from 2000 to now are like night and day.”
Democrats’ reasons for opposing states’ election reforms include rallying support for a bill, HR 1, that passed the U.S. House and is pending in the U.S. Senate, where it is known as S 1. The legislation would nationalize election administration, eliminate voter ID laws, and allow ballot harvesting, among other things.
“If HR 1 were to pass, it would trigger a massive amount of litigation that would be decided on by the Supreme Court,” Nuzzo said. “The law would counter not only Florida election laws, but other states that have been in place for some time.”
The Florida bill would require voters to request an absentee ballot for each election cycle, instead of every two election cycles.
The state legislation also would require election office personnel to secure ballot drop boxes and to publish the location of drop boxes 30 days before they are put in place.
In her statement, Heritage Action’s Anderson said:
Additionally, the Legislature should retain language that grants greater transparency and access for candidates and other officials to review signature comparisons, as well as language preventing ballot trafficking by political operatives. These important provisions will improve the transparency and security of Florida’s elections and ensure that it is easy to vote and hard to cheat in the Sunshine State.