- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 6, 2021

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an election bill Thursday that requires voter ID and bans ballot harvesting and mass mail-in balloting.

The tighter election laws, which were drafted after voting irregularities and unsubstantiated allegations of ballot fraud in the 2020 presidential election, are the latest flashpoint in a partisan feud over how America votes.

“I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country,” Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, said when signing the bill during a live interview on Fox News. “We’re making sure we’re enforcing voter ID. … We’re also banning ballot harvesting. We’re not gonna let political operatives go and get satchels of votes to dump them in some drop box.”

The new laws also require that drop boxes for absentee ballots are monitored.

Immediately after the bill was signed into law, Marc Elias, a Democratic lawyer, announced a federal lawsuit challenging it as a form of voter suppression.

The filing was brought by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, and Black Voters Matters Fund. They said the law runs afoul of the Constitution.

The lawsuit asks the court to stop the law from being enforced.

“It will deprive lawful Floridians of their most fundamental rights, undermining the integrity of the state’s elections, and once ballots are cast, there will be no meaningful redress for injured voters,” the complaint reads.

Florida is one of several states where Republican-majority legislatures are moving to make changes to voting laws in the wake of the 2020 election.

Republican lawmakers in Arizona, Michigan, Texas and Georgia have been making changes, which they say will ensure election integrity.

Critics decry the moves as a form of voter suppression.

Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who previously served as governor of Florida and is challenging Mr. DeSantis for reelection, slammed his opponent for signing the law on Fox News, excluding other media from coverage.

“This is the difference between @GovRonDeSantis and me. He locks out the public and caters to FOX News. When I was Governor, everyone was invited in — Democrats, Republicans and Independents. And when I’m Governor again, this will be a Florida for all,” Mr. Crist tweeted.

Georgia, Florida’s northern neighbor, became the first state to enact new election laws following the 2020 election and faced backlash from President Biden and Democrats, who called for a boycott of the swing state. Major League Baseball pulled its All-Star Game from Atlanta and relocated it to Denver.

The Georgia law required a photo ID to obtain an absentee ballot. Democrats argue the photo ID requirement disenfranchises minority voters, who do not have access to identification like White voters do. Republicans dismiss that claim, saying it is a racist statement and that there are forms of free government identification for those who can’t afford a driver’s license.

The Florida law, meanwhile, bans private groups from funding election activities, such as the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The group contributed funds to more than 2,500 localities during the 2020 election.

J. Christian Adams, president of the right-leaning Public Interest Legal Foundation, praised the Florida law.

“Thank you @GovRonDeSantis for signing SB 90 into the law. This takes critical action to ban Zuckbucks and other private funds from funding elections. It also prohibits mailing unsolicited ballots to voters. Florida is leading the country on election integrity,” he tweeted.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House deputy press secretary, said Florida “is moving in the wrong direction.”

“The 2020 election was one of the most secure elections in American history,” she told reporters aboard Air Force One on the president’s trip to Louisiana on Thursday. “There’s no legitimate reason to change the rules right now to make it harder to vote. That’s built on a lie.”

Ms. Jean-Pierre said the only reason to change voting rules now “is if you don’t like who voted, and that should be out of bounds.”

“There are some states with bad laws that are trying to make them good, and some states with good laws trying to make them even better,” she said. “We need to be working to make sure voting is secure and convenient.”

Democratic secretaries of state and liberal organizations are pushing for the passage of the For the People Act, a massive election overhaul bill pushed by congressional Democrats to nationalize elections and offset some of the recent voting changes passed by Republican legislatures in key battleground states.

“The current moment demands that we have the federal government once again step in,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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