by PAT RAIA, [email protected]
Legislation that establishes new rules for the way elections are conducted in Florida has been passed by the State Legislature and is headed to the Governor's desk to be signed into law. Meanwhile, Hernando County Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson said her office is prepared to comply with what the measure requires.
In February, Gov. Ron DeSantis told supporters in West Palm Beach he would champion measures that would boost election transparency and ballot integrity by among other things disallowing so-called “ballot harvesting,” and requiring real-time reporting of voter turnout data at the precinct level.
Subsequently, SB 90 introduced by State Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) and companion legislation filed in the House of Representatives by State Rep Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) laid down rules intended to increase ballot integrity.
In its final version, passed on April 29, the legislation limits the use of drop boxes to those used during the early hours of voting unless they are located at election supervisors' offices. Either way, all drop boxes in use are required to be staffed in person by the election supervisor's office personnel. Supervisors who fail to comply with the new drop-box rules could be subject to a $25,000 fine.
Meanwhile, those wanting to vote by mail, must request a mail-in ballot during every election cycle instead of requesting one during every two cycles.
Under the legislation, a voter may have in their possession their own ballot, those of immediate family members such as a parent or sibling, and two others for one election cycle when they pick up or return a ballot on their behalf.
Finally, under the measure, voters are required to confirm their identities by providing a valid Florida Driver's license, state identification number, or the last four digits of their social security number.
Since its introduction, the measure has been opposed by some social justice advocates who maintain that the legislation will suppress voting in some communities, especially in communities of color.
Ingoglia dismissed those claims.
“Anyone who says we are suppressing anyone's vote is being intellectually dishonest for purely political reasons,” Ingoglia said. “All we did with this legislation is add safeguards such as asking for voter ID when requesting a vote by mail ballot and stopping the practice of ballot harvesting - This soon-to-be law will make it easy to vote and tough to cheat, which is what Floridians have been asking for."
In Hernando County, Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson said that some of the legislation's requirements, such as those pertaining to drop-boxes have been in place since the 2020 election cycle.
“The only difference this year is that we will have to hire someone to be at the Forest Oaks location because there are so many ballots dropped off there,” Anderson said. She explained that they were already manning drop boxes at Early Vote, so she'll only need to add someone to cover outside of Forest Oaks.
As a result, the financial cost of complying with the new rules is not expected to be significant, she said.
“We're looking at the budget (this week),” Anderson said. “But we don't expect (compliance) will be costly, maybe $2,000-$4,000.”
Meanwhile, Anderson said that her office will focus on helping voters prepare for the 2022 election cycle.
“We want people to be prepared to vote in 2022 so we need them to read about the new regulations, especially about requesting mail-in ballots for each election cycle,” she said. “If they have questions, they can call us – we are always happy to talk with them and answer their questions.”
SB 90 awaits Gov. Ron DeSantis's signature into law.
Correction 5/3/21 7pm: Reference to the "Fair Oaks" location was corrected to "Forest Oaks." Further clarification was added on SOE compliance costs.