The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature passed an election overhaul bill on Thursday that is set to restrict voting in one of the nation’s most critical battleground states.
The bill passed largely along party lines in the state Senate — 23 to 17 — though one Republican state senator, Jeff Brandes, voted against it.
The development comes after the Florida House passed the bill known as SB 90 on Wednesday afternoon. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is expected to sign the legislation after indicating his support for the voting overhaul which is expected to limit access to voting in the state.
The move comes after a shift in the 2020 elections cycle demonstrated growing popularity among Democrats for an existing tradition of mail-in voting in the Sunshine State during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 2.1 million Democrats cast mail ballots, compared with roughly 1.4 million Republicans. The practice was historically favored by Republicans — but former President Donald Trump had waged a concerted effort to falsely discredit mail-in voting ahead of the 2020 presidential elections.
The new measures — which limit the use of drop boxes and add stricter identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots — are anticipated by voting experts to disproportionately affect voters of color.
In addition to those changes, the bill would also require voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, would limit who could collect and drop off ballots and would further empower partisan observers during ballot-counting. The legislation would also expand an existing rule that bars outside groups from providing items “with the intent to influence” voters within a 150-foot radius of a polling location.
The legislation comes on the heels of similar election laws passed recently by Georgia, and comes as Texas, Arizona and other Republican-led states pursue limits on access to the ballot.