A Florida measure scaling back its mail voting system and limiting ballot drop box access became law Thursday morning, with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) making a Fox and Friends appearance to sign the bill.
DeSantis signed the legislation at the tail end of the interview with the morning Fox News program, which was given exclusive access to carry the bill signing while local media was shut out of the ceremony.
The legislation restricts the availability of ballot drop boxes to regular voting hours and puts other limits on their use that will make them more costly for election officials to operate.
“I am not a fan of drop boxes at all, to be honest with you,” DeSantis told Fox News.
Florida will no longer allow voters to sign up to automatically receive mail ballots for two election cycles in a row; they’ll now have to renew their mail voting requests after every two-year election cycle.
Mail voting in Florida has traditionally had broad Republican support, and GOP lawmakers in the state previously led the charge to expand it. But in 2020, amid President Trump’s fear-mongering around mail voting, the partisan dynamics shifted. Democrats took to mail voting with previously unseen enthusiasm for the party, while Republicans turned to in-person early voting, which had usually been dominated by Democrats.
GOP operatives, nonetheless, have quietly worried that the new legislation will ultimately undermine the advantages Republicans have built over the years using mail voting to get out their voters, according to a recent Washington Post report.
Election officials, including some Republicans, vehemently objected to the tack the legislature was taking in overhauling Florida’s widely praised election system. The version signed by DeSantis Wednesday included concessions that removed some for the most controversial aspects of early iterations of the bill.
Florida’s push to clamp down on voter access is part of a nationwide surge in restrictive proposals, and the new law includes provisions that have popped up in other parts of the country. Like several other states, Florida is banning the acceptance of private funding to administer elections, after philanthropic donations in 2020 — include those from a charity run by Mark Zuckerberg — helped election officials adapt voting infrastructure to the pandemic. (DeSantis on Thursday referred to the donations derisively as “Zuckerbucks.”)
The measure also heightens ID mandates for mail voting and even requires voters to show an ID when they’re turning in a ballot at a ballot drop box. It will make voter registration drives more cumbersome for outside groups by imposing new requirements for third parties that are seeking to register new voters. Within nine minutes of the bill being signed, Marc Elias — a prominent Democratic voting rights attorney — announced he had filed a lawsuit challenging it. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund announced soon after the signing the filing of a federal lawsuit as well.