Florida continues to be the vanguard in legislative reform after a new election integrity bill was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on May 6. The signing event was unique in that all news outlets were excluded, except for the Fox & Friends morning show.
DeSantis elaborated on his decision in a press conference later in the day, “We were happy to give them [Fox] the exclusive on that, and I think that it went really well. But that’s broadcast to millions of people not just obviously throughout the whole country but a huge number of people in Florida.”
However, Fox & Friends told Tampa Bay Times the same day the network “did not request or mandate that the May 6th event and interview with Gov. Ron DeSantis be exclusive to FOX News Media entities.” Producers stated DeSantis was only booked for an interview.
During the interview, host Brian Kilmeade reportedly asked DeSantis about the Bill before querying: “What are you about to sign?”
DeSantis replied, “I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country. I’m actually going to sign it right here.”
After signing, DeSantis produced a prop poster board for the camera that outlined the changes in the new law.
The SB 90 election reform legislation was passed in the Florida Senate 23-17 and was earlier approved by the House 77-40.
Jessica Anderson, Executive Director of conservative organization Heritage Action, praised Florida’s legislature for passing a bill she described as containing “numerous provisions to protect the votes of Floridians.”
“These measures, which Heritage Action advocated for and partnered with thousands of grassroots activists to support, will help ensure it is easy to vote and hard to cheat in Florida. Every Floridian has the right to know that their votes are counted and their elections are transparent and secure.”
Some of the reforms found in SB90 are:
- A physical copy of voter signatures will now be kept on file;
- Drop boxes are now limited to early voting hours, unless located inside the offices of election supervisors;
- Absentee voters must provide ID at the time of drop off. Boxes must also be monitored at all times by an in-person election official;
- Within restricted zones at voting sites on election day, influencing campaigns are now banned. Election officials can, however, provide “non-partisan assistance” such as water and food;
- Voters will now have to request a mail ballot during every single election cycle instead of every two; and
- Election supervisors must determine and publish drop box locations within 30 days of election date. Boxes can no longer be moved afterwards under any circumstances.
Just as in other states such as Georgia, Florida Democrats lashed out at election reform. State Representative Anna Eskamani painted the reform as a “voter suppression bill” on Twitter because the legislation “makes it harder to vote by mail.”
State Representative Omari Hardy, a Democrat, claimed during debate in Florida’s House that state Republicans were only motivated by Donald Trump’s defeat. Hardy pandered to prejudice when he tried to frame SB90 as “the revival of Jim Crow,” a reference to a slavey-era social caste system.
Representative Ralph Massullo, a Republican, slammed Democrats for trying to create press soundbytes that cast a shadow on election integrity reform as if the legislative changes were racially motivated or an attempt to restrict voter rights. Massullo argued Florida offers more ways to vote than any other state in the nation.
Although the bill is similar to the reforms passed in Georgia, it hasn’t yet attracted the kind of corporate activism that is being seen in the Peach State.
With reporting by Prakash Gogoi