Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed SB 90 into law. The bill, which addressed elections, has been derided as a “Jim Crow” tactic and characterized as voter suppression by political opponents. However, in 2012, a grand jury taking part in an election fraud case in Miami-Dade County provided a list of recommendations to lawmakers to crack down on absentee ballot-related voter fraud. A number of those grand jury recommendations were included in SB 90.
DeSantis has praised the bill saying Florida has some of the “strongest election integrity measures” in the country.
The Grand Jury Report
In the executive summary of the final report, the jury was shocked at the lack of accountability among absentee voting ballots during the 2012 Primary Election in Miami-Dade.
“In the aftermath of the August 14, 2012 Primary Election, Miami-Dade County was rocked with allegations of absentee ballot fraud that bombarded us daily in the media. The headlines of the breaking new coverage revealed gaping holes in the absentee ballot voting process in our community. As we discovered, each of those holes represented an opportunity for someone to commit fraud – undetected and in the shadows.”
The jury then provided the Florida Legislature with ten recommendations which included:
- … “reinstating the requirement that the signing of absentee ballots by electors require the signature of an attesting witness the signature of an attesting witness 18 years of age or older.”
- “In connection with the aforementioned recommendation” … “impose a requirement that the signature of the attesting witness will also be used to attest that in addition to witnessing the signing of the ballot by the elector, the witness also observed the elector mark or vote the ballot.”
- … “require that a person who provides assistance to an elector who needs assistance when voting an absentee ballot shall sign a declaration.”
- … “allow for the expansion of Early Voting Sites, especially in large counties like Miami-Dade, and to give the Supervisor of Elections discretion in choosing and determining the location and number of Early Voting sites to utilize in an election cycle.”
- … “eliminating the permanent absentee voter list and require that absentee voters who desire to vote by absentee ballot for a specific election request an absentee ballot for such election.”
- … “making it illegal for anyone to be in possession of more than two absentee ballots at one time, unless the ballots are those of the voter and members of the voter’s immediate family…”
One of the notable recommendations included in SB90 related to “ballot harvesting”, a practice where individuals can pick up several absentee ballots from voters. SB90 includes a provision which limits the number of ballots an individual may collect.
Also addressed in the bill were increased identification requirement associated with absentee ballots and the time requirement associated with a voter requesting an absentee ballot.
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