Florida governor signs bill restricting mail-in voting rights
© WikiMedia (Bart Everson)
Florida governor signs bill restricting mail-in voting rights

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law Thursday a bill introducing sweeping restrictions to mail-in voting access. Senate Bill 90—which critics have labelled as a violation of voting rights and a form of voter suppression—limits access to mail-in ballots and drop boxes as well as tightens identification requirements for voting by mail.

Immediately after the signing, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Disability Rights Florida and Common Cause jointly filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the bill illegally and unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote. The civil rights groups argue that the law imposes hurdles that disproportionately affect voters of color, voters with disabilities, and elderly voters, thereby violating the US Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, 1965 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990.

The Republican governor defended the law by claiming that it would “increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections.” DeSantis has been a vocal supporter of former President Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, including encouraging Republicans to donate to Trump’s legal relief fund and for Republican state legislatures to “exhaust every option” to continue appointing Republican electors after the election.

Civil rights commentators have raised a number of concerns about the effect on voter turnout. The Senate bill restricts who can collect and return mail-in ballots and when, where and how drop boxes may be accessed, among other restrictive provisions. Under the new law, people may only access a limited number of mail-in ballots for immediate family members. Mass distribution of mail-in ballots is now prohibited and voters must request to vote by mail, which now includes tighter identification requirements.

The lawsuit argues that Senate Bill 90 “unduly burdens” elderly and disabled voters who experience difficulty waiting in line to vote and travelling to drop boxes, who must now undergo a longer and more restrictive process to vote by mail. It also raises the point that voters of color rely more on mail-in ballots due to being less likely to possess all forms of identification, have access to a car or be able to take time off work. Polls in minority communities are limited and are more likely to experience longer wait times and voters with disabilities often need assistance from volunteers, both of which will be affected by longer lines without volunteers.