Contentious election bill moves forward

Photo courtesy: Kellogg Insight

Florida election bill SPB7050 brings a number of possible changes to the elections world including new requirements for mail-in voting and for first-time voters.

The 98-page bill impacts voters, voter registration groups and candidates.

As far as changes for voters, the bill requires first time voters to have been issued a Social Security number and have a Florida-issued driver’s license or ID in order to vote by mail. The bill also will prosecute voters for casting more than one ballot, considering it a third-degree felony.

Changes for voter registration groups include requiring a re-registration for each specific general election cycle in which they may or may not be chosen to participate in and a requirement to issue a receipt to each person they register. Applications will also have to be turned in within 10 days instead of 14, as well as pay $5,000 for every application submitted late instead of the previous $100 fee.

Candidates, too, have new changes that would come from this bill, including reducing the report of political contributions from every month to every quarter. Candidates will also not be allowed to use honorary names like “Mrs.” and “Dr.” on the ballot unless they happen to have the same name as another candidate.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans called for these changes in an effort to prevent fraud and other inconsistencies in the elections, but Democrats, argue that Republicans are making it harder for people to vote.

With the bill dropping less than 24 hours before its first committee hearing, Democrats claimed that the bill was released late deliberately.

Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani said that the late notice might have been intentional.

“Not only is it absurd, but it’s undemocratic and clearly designed to avoid public scrutiny,” Eskamani said. “We should be introducing election reforms that make it simpler for people to vote and get registered to vote, not policies that make it harder.”

Danny Burgess, a Republican who chairs the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, said the bill hadn’t been evaluated earlier because it was “very technical and mechanical.” He said that this is a good thing.

“Collectively, I think that enhanced our responsibility to try to get it right … making sure all those machinations are working is really important,” Burgess said.

First-year Florida A&M University student and student body Vice President-elect Jeffrey Francis, says that this bill seems especially difficult for college students.

“The bill is rushed and makes it harder for people to vote. Especially college students who want to vote in Florida, the state that they have to reside in while they’re in college,” Francis said. “To me it looks like an act of voter suppression.”