GOP Senators Back Vote-By-Mail Overhaul

GOP Senators Back Vote-By-Mail Overhaul

By Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — With backing from Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Florida Senate committee on Wednesday approved a wide-ranging proposal to revamp vote-by-mail laws, including banning the use of drop boxes and taking aim at a practice known as “ballot harvesting.”

The bill (SB 90) comes amid efforts in various parts of the country by Republicans to place new restrictions on voting by mail, after former President Donald Trump attacked the process during his unsuccessful re-election campaign last year. It also comes after Florida Democrats used vote-by-mail ballots heavily in November.

While Florida had relatively few problems in the November elections, Senate bill sponsor Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said the proposed vote-by-mail changes are designed to ensure the security of future elections.

“I am all about staying ahead of whatever problems could develop,” Baxley said before the GOP-controlled Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee voted 4-2 along party lines to approve the bill Wednesday. “So, it’s not that there was a debacle, and we have to fix it. Do we have to wait for a debacle? Why can’t we take something that is working well and put guardrails on it and keep it safe?”

But Democrats and county elections supervisors opposed the bill, expressing concerns about issues such as the proposed ban on drop boxes, which many voters used in 2020 instead of placing ballots in the mail. Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley, who is the vice president of a statewide supervisors association, said the bill could create a return to past problems of long lines and confusion at polling places.

“I have heard of no supervisors who are in support of this bill,” Earley said. “There are a few good measures, but on balance, we are against this bill vehemently.”

Other critics went further and said the bill was an attempt at voter suppression.

“Adding roadblocks to mail ballots and banning ballot drop boxes will confuse and disenfranchise millions of voters,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, said in a prepared statement after the vote. “It’s clear that Florida Republicans’ latest voter suppression scheme, which is opposed by county election officials, is designed to silence the collective voices of millions.”

But Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican who doubles as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, disputed that the bill would disenfranchise voters or create confusion.

“This is all about ensuring that we have the confidence of the voters, making sure it is as easy as possible to vote and as hard as possible to cheat,” said Gruters, who is a member of the Senate committee that approved the measure. “That has got to be the goal.”

The Senate vote came less than a month after DeSantis, a close political ally of Trump, held a news conference in Palm Beach County to call for changes in the vote-by-mail process. Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, immediately supported DeSantis on the issue.

Baxley’s bill initially was limited to making a change that would require voters to request vote-by-mail ballots more frequently. But the proposal was dramatically expanded during Wednesday’s meeting to include other changes.

In addition to banning the use of drop boxes for voters to drop off ballots, the bill would only allow “immediate” family members to collect and deliver ballots for voters. That would seek to prevent “ballot harvesting,” which involves other people being able to collect and deliver ballots.

Baxley, who chairs the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, said the change would help with election security.

“By limiting that, you are preserving a secure pattern and not opening that chain of transfer (of ballots) to mischief or mayhem or mishap,” Baxley said.

But Lake County Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays, a former Republican senator, said many people don’t have immediate family members who could help with vote-by-mail ballots. He said current law allows voters to designate in writing other people who can pick up ballots.

“Do you have any idea how many people, like my dear mother, don’t have immediate family members living nearby, thus they won’t be able to have their ballot picked up for them,” Hays said.

Among other things, the bill would require voters to resubmit requests for vote-by-mail ballots for the 2022 elections, even if they have already submitted a request under current law. Also, the bill would prevent supervisors from providing vote-by-mail ballots unless requests are made and require voters’ signatures to match the most-recent signatures on file.

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing many people to be reluctant to go to the polls, more than 4.85 million Floridians cast votes by mail in the November election, according to state figures. That included about 2.19 million registered Democrats and 1.5 million registered Republicans, with the rest of the ballots cast by unaffiliated or third-party voters.

— News Service Assignment Manager Tom Urban contributed to this report.

9 Responses to "GOP Senators Back Vote-By-Mail Overhaul"

  1. DeepStatePropogandist has been hitting the bong a bit too often of late. Nice try with the Alynski Projection there sport… but as usual, just another delusion in the mush-melon of a malleable NaziCrat.

    Take another hit, slick… and back to the basement with you.


  2. Election day should be a holiday.

    The working poor cannot afford to spend hours in line to vote. Republican’s know this, so they cut hours for early voting, reduce polling stations in urban areas, want to shut down polling places on Sundays, and try to reduce mail in voting. They shroud themselves in a façade of the Constitution as if they founding fathers envisioned a system to make it more difficult for American’s vote instead of the opposite. Ultimately, Republicans understand that Democratic policies are popular, and that if anything close to 100% of the electorate voted, there would never be another Republican majority; at least with their current slate of legislative policies, whatever those are.

    What a embarrassing endeavor led by people who have nothing but naked ambition for power and the attempt for minority rule through gerrymandering and legislative actions. If Trumpers understood shame, they would hang their heads.

  3. I forgot to add……. To be allowed to Vote you MUST Show a Government Issued Photo ID that proves you are a US Citizen.

    Genius Edward!
    I strongly suggest everyone everywhere henceforth attach the “NIKKI WEED” moniker to each and every reference made to our esteemed leader of The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
    Thank you Edward for bringing the coolest ever politician nick name to Florida’s attention.

  5. The “voter suppression” card is as tired as the “race card”. And who really gives a rats rear-end what the compromised and corrupt Nikki Weed has to say about anything.

    I completely agree with Mr. Hawkins. Mail in ballots should only be authorized for use by those who can verify a cause such as a disability or an out of town military assignment. Also, a valid government issued and citizen verified ID must be mandatory for any form of voting in America’s elections. Furthermore, there should only be a one week early voting block. If you can get off your lazy tail-ends to get to McDonalds, Taco Bell, Starbucks, the clubs, and the weed store… then you can do it to vote. If voting is important to you, then you will take the necessary steps to engage in the Democratic process that structures our Representative Constitutional Republic.

    One living “citizen”; One vote

  6. I have said this before” The only ones that should be allowed a “Vote By Mail” Ballot are the Disabled, the Military over Sea’s, The Elderly and those in High Elected Office. If you are American Citizen over Sea’s and NOT in the Military, you will have to come back to Vote.

  7. Well you GOP Senators better work your @ss off to be sure Nicki, Gwen, or Andrew dont get elected in 2022.
    As we saw in Georgia and the other Democratic governed States your little bill wont be worth the paper its written on if we loose Florida to the left.
    Hope you GOP Senators keep your noses clean, stay out of trouble, and for Gods sake sell all your investments in Nikie’s weed business ASAP.

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