Politics

Florida Legislature Approves Election Reform Bill That Includes Restrictions

An election worker sorts vote-by-mail ballots at the Miami-Dade County Board of Elections in Doral, Fla., on Oct. 26, 2020. Florida's state legislature on Thursday approved a bill that would alter how residents can vote by mail.
An election worker sorts vote-by-mail ballots at the Miami-Dade County Board of Elections in Doral, Fla., on Oct. 26, 2020. Florida's state legislature on Thursday approved a bill that would alter how residents can vote by mail.
Lynne Sladky/AP

Both chambers of Florida's state legislature approved new election reforms Thursday that would place restrictions on ballot drop boxes and residents' ability to vote by mail.

It's the latest Republican-led effort to alter state voting rules following record-breaking turnout during the 2020 election.

SB90 passed the Florida Senate with a vote of 23-17 and the House 77-40. The measure now heads to DeSantis for his signature and he is expected to sign it.

Earlier versions of the legislation would have banned the use of ballot drop boxes altogether, but last-minute changes allowed for their use under new limitations.

Changes include restrictions on who can drop off a voter's ballot, requiring the location of a drop box to be chosen at least 30 days before an election and election officials must supervise the drop boxes in person while they're open.

The measure also limits who can hand out any item, including food or water or election-related material, to voters waiting in line. Items can't be given to voters within 150 feet of a ballot box. Only volunteers or staff working with the election supervisor can "provide nonpartisan assistance," to voters within that area.

The bill would also require voters to request to mail-in ballots regularly and places restrictions on third-party voter registration groups. Ballot counting observers would be allowed for each political party official and candidate after polls close.

Florida's voting reform bill is part of a nationwide effort to alter how states conduct elections and to restrict expanded voter access. A controversial law approved in March in Georgia was slammed by voting rights activists and Democrats as voter suppression.

Major businesses with ties to Texas and Georgia criticized attempts to curb voter access. The fallout in Georgia resulted in Major League Baseball moving this year's All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

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