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The day after the 2020 elections, Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis took the stage to gloat.
“People are actually looking at Florida and asking the question, why can’t these states be more like Florida?” he said during a November 4 press conference, as some other states were still tallying their votes.
But as Republicans around the country rushed to respond to former President Trump’s lies that the election was stolen by passing significant new voting restrictions, DeSantis and Florida Republicans decided they wanted to be part of the fun.
On Thursday night, they passed a bill that creates new restrictions on mail voting and drop boxes.
The bill, which DeSantis supports and plans to sign into law, makes it harder to vote by mail, puts up new barriers on third-party voter registration organizations, and creates new requirements for mail-ballot drop boxes.
DeSantis said in February that the changes were necessary to "stay ahead of the curve,” even as he said Florida’s 2020 elections were “the most transparent and efficient election anywhere in the country.”
Much of Florida’s mail voting system has been in place for almost two decades, created by Republicans after the fiasco of the 2000 elections. They carefully crafted it to make it easier to vote while protecting against voting fraud. Until the past election, Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to use mail voting, both in Florida and nationally. Trump’s false attacks on mail voting as untrustworthy and fraud-prone flipped those patterns.
One significant change in the new bill: Voters will now have to request an absentee ballot much more regularly. Previously, Florida voters only had to ask once to be put on a list to get their ballots in the mail for years.
The bill also adds more identification requirements for absentee ballot requests, limits who’s allowed to drop off mail ballots, and creates a series of rules governing where drop boxes can be placed and how they need to be monitored.
Florida Republicans backed off a proposal to make it illegal to give food and drinks to voters waiting in line—a controversial change adopted by Georgia Republicans—but added a new ban on giving items “with the intent to influence” voters within 150 feet of polling places. They also ban outside groups from giving local governments money to help with election administration and create new restrictions on outside groups’ voter registration drives.
Even Trump, now a Florida resident, made sure to praise Florida’s system last cycle—he didn’t want to scare Republican-leaning senior citizens away from voting by mail. And after winning the state by a surprisingly large 3-point margin, he didn’t file any lawsuits against the results, even as his campaign filed almost 100 unsuccessful lawsuits in other states that he’d lost.
The bill comes as part of a nationwide push by Republicans to make it harder to vote in the name of “election integrity,” based on the false claim that voting fraud is a rampant problem in the U.S. in spite of zero evidence that there were widespread issues in 2020.
Georgia and Iowa Republicans have already passed laws that could make it it harder to vote in future years, and Republicans in dozens of other state legislatures are pushing similar legislation.