Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law a voter restriction bill, making it the latest election battleground state in the south to adopt Republican-backed restrictions since the November presidential election.
DeSantis and his fellow Republicans in the state legislature said the law was necessary to prevent voter fraud, despite the lack of voting irregularities last November.
The new law restricts when ballot drop boxes can be used during an early voting period, who can retrieve ballots, and the number of ballots that can be collected.
Voters requesting absentee ballots now face new identification requirements, and those making changes to their registration information are now required to provide an identification number, possibly from a driver’s license or some other type of acceptable identification.
The law also requires voters to submit new applications for absentee ballots in each general election cycle, instead of once every two cycles as required under the old law.
In addition, the law grants partisan election observers more authority to raise objections, and it requires people assisting voters to remain about 45 meters from polling stations, an increase from about a 30 meters radius.
The bill was approved by both houses of the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature. Democrats, voting rights groups and state elections officials said there was no need for the new restrictions.
Despite claims of voter fraud by state Republican politicians, they previously said they were unaware of such problems in Florida. Election supervisors throughout the state did not request any of the changes and cautioned that some of the new requirements may be expensive to implement and difficult to manage.
The NAACP, Common Cause and other rights groups said they would file a lawsuit in federal court arguing the new law would disproportionately affect disabled voters and those in predominantly Black and Latino communities.
The Democratic Party urged voters to cast ballots early by mail in last year’s November presidential election due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida Democrats cast 680,000 more mail-in ballots than Republicans, the first time in years they outvoted Republicans by mail.
Lawmakers in Republican-controlled states such as Georgia, Arizona and Texas have sought to explain a series of proposed voting restrictions by citing former president Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden was stolen from him.
Judges have discredited such claims in more than 60 lawsuits across the U.S. that failed to overturn election results.