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Local lawmakers react to Florida election law changes

Senate Bill 90 passed Thursday in both GOP-led House, Senate

Florida casts itself as elections model, but clashes remain
Florida casts itself as elections model, but clashes remain

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A controversial bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis soon that increases security in Florida’s elections. But the GOP-led bill is being criticized by Democrats as a partisan move to suppress the vote.

Senate Bill 90 passed Thursday in both the GOP-led House and Senate. The bill increases security on things like ballot drop boxes and limits the influence of donors from outside Florida on state elections.

RELATED: Florida GOP awaits governor’s signature on new voting rules

But Democrats are saying this is being done intentionally because the GOP is losing in mail-in voting and they want to do this to close the gap. They say it disenfranchises minority voters.

News4Jax spoke with GOP state Rep. Cord Byrd, who said Senate Bill 90 prevents outside money from coming into state elections and adds security to drop boxes.

“It’s really not a disconnect,” Byrd said. “Every year, we look at what’s going on around the country, whether it’s elections or other areas of the law. We’re constantly looking at making improvements.”

But Democrats are fighting this, hard, like they have been in states, such as Georgia, where similar legislation was passed and it was referred to as a Jim Crow law, even by President Joe Biden.

Jacksonville state Sen. Audrey Gibson said the new legislation unfairly targets minority voters by making the voting process less inviting and making it more difficult to vote by mail.

“It absolutely is a concern in Florida that the idea of the bill is to suppress the Black vote and people of color,” Gibson said. “They’re impeding on our right to vote.”

Now, this will likely head to the courtroom. Both sides believe they have the stronger hand in what will inevitably be a legal fight.

“It’s absurd, it’s demagoguery, at worst, to compare anything we did to Jim Crow, and I reject it in its totality,” Byrd said.

“It’s a bill that’s not needed, so the contents therein are not necessary,” Gibson said. “There was no fraud. We had a very, very well run election in the state of Florida, and even the governor himself said we were a model.”

A big source of contention is that Democrats across the country led in voting by mail and this is a partisan move to wipe out that advantage. A record 4.8 million ballots were cast by mail in the most recent election.

“I absolutely anticipate legal action and I encourage people to call the governor’s office, email,” Gibson said. “I’m sure he can’t wait to sign it. But ask him to veto it. Do the right thing.”

“I absolutely do. Under Article 1, Section 4 of the United States Constitution, it’s the state legislatures that have the constitutional authority to set election law,” Byrd said. “And every year, we get these threats from Democrat lawyers, like Mark Elias, and Florida’s not going to be bullied.”

DeSantis has yet to sign the legislation into law, but he’s expected to in coming days.

About the Author:

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.