Florida Republican-Backed Law Restricts Absentee Voting
Florida has become the latest state to move to restrict voting rights, passing new legislation limiting absentee ballots.
The new law restricts the use of drop-boxes to collect absentee voter ballots during the early voting period, and requires voters to reapply for their absentee ballot at each new election cycle. The absentee ballot application process will also introduce new voter ID requirements for those requesting ballots.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Republican-backed legislation into law today, May 6. The law is just the most recent in a string of new regulations passed by states across the US designed to place new hurdles in the way of voters, in what activists have described as a coordinated voter suppression effort.
Following the signing, civil rights groups launched lawsuits in 67 Florida counties to block new restrictions, Reuters reports.
Many of the new laws were first introduced to Republican-controlled battleground state legislatures in the wake of Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election, which many in the party continue to allege – without proof – was the result of widespread voter fraud.
In addition to placing new restrictions on absentee voting, the Florida law introduces new regulations blocking activists and campaigners providing voter assistance from being within 150 feet (45 metres) of polling places – an increase of 50 feet on the previous limit. Voter observers have also been handed increased powers to challenge counts – a tactic Republicans repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to use last November to block counts in close-fought districts.
Speaking to The New York Times last week, Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida, said, ‘There was no problem in Florida. Everything worked as it should. The only reason they’re doing this is to make it harder to vote.’
In a televised signing of the bill aired on Fox News’s morning show Fox & Friends, Governor DeSantis said, ‘Me signing this bill here says, ‘Florida, your vote counts, your vote is going to be cast with integrity and transparency.’
DeSantis had previously described his state’s November election as ‘ the smoothest, most successful election of any state in the country’.
The action comes two months after Georgia passed a similar law restricting absentee voting as part of a raft of new voter laws that caused huge outrage in the state and beyond. Campaigners said that the law were aimed at disenfranchising Black voters after the state swung in Democrats’ favour in 2020.
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