WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – An announcement Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis on proposals to this year’s legislative session to tighten Florida’s voting procedures felt more like a Republican campaign rally, with the governor inviting former GOP state party Chairman Blaze Drinkwine to make remarks slamming New York and its governor, Andrew Cuomo.
“The result of 2020, from an administrative perspective, was that Florida had the most transparent and efficient election anywhere in the country,” DeSantis said to the cheering crowd. “The results speak for themselves, but we also can’t rest on our laurels. We need to make sure that we continue to stay ahead of the curve.”
DeSantis began his appearance at a hotel at the Palm Beach International Airport by reminding the audience that among his first acts as governor was to remove the election supervisors in both Palm Beach and Broward counties and slamming other states that took days to count votes from the presidential election. He did not mention that those states operate under different laws that don’t allow them to begin counting mail-in ballots until after the polls close on election day.
DeSantis is looking to outlaw the practice of “ballot harvesting” -- a practice that allows third parties to collect and deliver ballots in some states. Current law prevents this from being done by people paid to do the work, but the governor would also ban the practice by volunteers.
The governor also took aim at ballot-collection boxes anywhere other than each county’s supervisor of elections office. He said these posed a risk for people looking to destroy or manipulate ballots.
“You can’t leave these boxes unattended,” DeSantis said. “I think that you can take it, put it in the mail or take it to the elections office. Why do you need to have these things out there?”
Because of the volume of mail ballots being used last year due to the pandemic and widely reported issues about delivery problems at the U.S. Postal Service, most large counties in Florida made extra drop boxes available -- often at early voting sites that were staffed by elections workers.
DeSantis also is asking the Legislature to write into state law that ballots can only be mailed to registered voters who request them -- not automatically sent to everyone on the voter rolls. Florida has never mailed ballots to all voters as a few other states have done, but the governor wants to make sure it never happens.
The state’s Democratic Party officials quickly responded, accusing Republican of wanting to undo the gain in the number of Floridians who voted by limiting access to the ballot box in future elections.
“Why do Florida Republicans want to limit vote by mail access? Well it all comes down to who has access to the franchise,” Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Marcus Dixon said. “So even though the vote by mail system worked well here in Florida this past election, any time too many people have easy access to the ballot box, Republicans feel like they need to change the rules.”
Newly election state Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz also took issue with DeSantis’ proposals.
“This is not an issue of Republicans versus Democrats, but instead an issue of Republicans versus democracy,” Diaz said. “Florida Republicans keep showing us that when given a choice between defending the rights of voters, or suppressing voter access, disturbingly they will all too gladly suppress, harm and sacrifice our most sacred Constitutional right, on the altar of preserving power for the sake of power.”