Lawmakers send election overhaul bill for governor's signature

Florida lawmakers approved a controversial elections bill that adds restrictions to the voting process and Governor Ron DeSantis said he intends to sign it into law.

Supporters say the bill tightens up security while opponents say it suppresses voting. Senate Bill 90 adds new voter ID requirements to register, to update your registration and to apply for a mail-in ballot.

"If you call our office and request a mail ballot, you’re going to have to give us your driver’s license or your Florida ID number or the last [four] of your social security number. There are 28,000 people in Pinellas County who don’t have any of those. What are they supposed to do?" said Dustin Chase, the Pinellas County deputy supervisor of elections.

The bill also requires voters to request an absentee ballot for every election cycle instead of every two elections.

"The 2020 election was by far the most secure election we have ever had, so the suggestion that this new bill adds security is a bit of a stretch," said Chase.

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Voters can only drop off their vote at election supervisor’s offices, early voting sites, or permanent branch offices instead of any secure satellite office. Those sites now must be staffed and some hours will be cut down.

Voting rights advocates said the restrictions target communities of color. University of South Florida political science professor J Edwin Benton explained why it may affect minorities.

"Many of them may not have transportation or because of their jobs, it’s difficult for them to get to their polling place. Before it was easier to drop off those ballots in a secure place, and now it is more difficult, more time-consuming and more likely to discourage some people from actually voting," said Benton.

The bill also allows more partisan access to the ballot counting process.

"What this bill does do though is it adds unprecedented political influence into the election process. So now political parties and candidates and candidate designees would be able to come in and potentially review election material in the middle of a live election," said Chase. "That creates a situation where we elections administrators fear we might not be able to certify elections by legal deadlines, and that’s incredibly important because part of makes us trust that elections are safe and secure is that you get those results quickly."

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Voting was secure in 2020 and DeSantis praised Florida's election process. He and backers of the bill said this will make them safer.

"There really is no voter suppression here. Let’s don’t wait until we have a debacle to make sure we have got this thing orderly so that mishaps don’t occur," said State Sen. Dennis Baxley, R- Ocala.

Some political experts said this is a reaction to false claims about the election from Donald Trump.

"It’s right in line, whether politicians will say it or not, it’s again evoking the statement this election was stolen and we’re going to tighten down the hatches so this doesn’t happen again," said Benton.

The bill also pushes out the no soliciting zone 50 more feet, and it sets up a live turnout dashboard for election day turnout and mail ballot processing.