Everyone from Donald Trump to Ron DeSantis acknowledges that Florida’s 2020 election was well-handled, and Republicans did well up and down the ballot. So why have Republicans in Tallahassee put up a series of bills that will make it much harder for people to vote by mail, end the use of drop-boxes, and threaten to close our neighborhood polling places, and make it a crime to give water to a voter on line?
Because, in 2020, for the first time, more Democrats voted by mail than did Republicans, almost 900,000 more. And since most of those voters signed up for vote-by-mail in 2019 or 2020, they’ll automatically be receiving vote-by-mail ballots in 2022. And since Governor DeSantis won his race by less than 35,000 votes, eliminating the Democratic vote-by-mail advantage heading into the Governor’s re-election campaign has become a priority.
What specifically are they trying to do?
The worst of the pending bills, SB 90, is such a blatant effort to destroy the vote-by-mail system that even its sponsors haven’t been able to articulate a plausible need for it. It is loudly and consistently opposed by all of the state’s 67 supervisors of election, most of whom are Republicans, and the editorial boards of every major news outlet. SB 90 will:
- Wipe out all of the millions of vote-by-mail requests currently on file
- Force every voter who had a request on file to file another one
- Limit new vote-by-mail requests to one general election (half the length of current requests)
- Eliminate entirely the safe, secure, ballot drop boxes used without incident by more than 1.5 million Floridians in 2020
- Make it a serious crime for anyone but a member of a voter’s immediate family to take their vote-by-mail ballot to the mailbox (so no friends, neighbors, or caregivers can help)
Because there is no funding for it in the bill, county taxpayers will have to bear the multi-million-dollar cost of complying with these changes and letting voters know about them.
Is there a discriminatory element to all of this?
The focus on undoing vote-by-mail will clearly have a disparate and unfortunate impact on the elderly and voters with disabilities, but there is more. Using drop boxes to return vote by mail ballots played a significant role in overcoming historically well-justified fears, particularly in many of Florida’s Black communities, of the ability of the postal service to get the ballots in on time. And drop boxes also made it feasible for voters working in the service industries and others in underserved communities to quickly ensure that their ballots were cast without taking substantial time off of work or other obligations.
There is an even greater risk of suppressing Black votes in the threat that the presence of suburban “super voting sites” could serve as legal cover and pretext for shutting down neighborhood polling places, which are in walking distance for many urban voters. Countless combinations of super voting locations and precinct closings have the potential to suppress Black votes in numbers large enough to change or guarantee outcomes up and down the ticket in 2022.
What can be done?
We have seen that protests of some of these awful provisions in this and other legislation have been effective. So, we need to add all our voices in protest of these horrible provisions.
We must contact our local Republican elected officials (you can find them here) and tell them to vote no on SB 90. Tell them to fix or forget SB 774/HB 635 and SB 656. And tell them you care about access to the vote. Then share this post with your friends and networks, and ask them to do the same.
Sign up for email updates, and join us at county and local club meetings to learn how to get more involved.