Florida Voting Law To Face Court Challenges
As promised, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed an elections overhaul bill that was one of the most-contentious issues of the 2021 legislative session. Also as promised, the signing has prompted the almost-immediate filing of numerous court challenges.
DeSantis and GOP lawmakers argue the bill, which addresses issues such as voting by mail, is needed to ensure secure elections. The bill will allow supervisors to use drop boxes at early voting sites and “permanent” branch offices, so long as the boxes are staffed by their employees during regular voting hours. The governor calls Senate Bill 90 the “strongest election integrity measures in the country.”
“We are proud of the strides that we have made. We’re not resting on our laurels. Me signing this bill here says ‘Florida, your vote counts. Your vote is going to be cast with integrity and transparency,’” said the governor.
Firing back at the state capitol was Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried -- the lone statewide-elected Democrat.
“Show me the fraud,” said Fried. “Let’s talk about that, the fraud that we did not see in this election. We had no issues at the polls. We had no issues at the ballot boxes. We had no issues counting ballots.”
Fried said the legislation will disenfranchise voters, and is a solution looking for a problem.
“Per our secretary of state; per our governor, and per our Republican leadership, [they] have said this was the most efficient and safe election that has been run in Florida history. So where was the fraud?”
Federal lawsuits were filed just minutes after SB 90 was signed -- contending it’s unconstitutional. Fried plans to file an amicus – or friend of the court -- brief in the suit by the Florida League of Women Voters.
“We are looking as far as, if in fact, I actually have the ability to actually be a plaintiff in this case,” Fried told reporters. “And potential other lawsuits that may be swimming around out there. So we’re looking into all options.”
“[Amicus] supports and endorses the lawsuit; and we’ll probably see other friend of the court briefs filed – not unusual at all,” said Patti Brigham, Florida League President.
The lawsuit contends that the voting law is unconstitutional, violating the 1st and 14th Amendments in a number of its provisions as a voter suppression bill. Case in point, she said, is restricting the use of drop boxes.
“You’re going to have drop boxes limited to just early vote sites, for example, and just early voting hours,” said Brigham. “And if there should be a mistake made by a supervisor of elections that does not comply with that provision, that supervisor could be hit with a $25,000 fine.”
Even Gov. DeSantis – as noted earlier -- declared the November vote in Florida was a “model election.”
“But then turned around in the same breath and said we need a major election reform here, which did not make sense then, and does not make sense now,” said Brigham. “We were clearly expecting him to sign this legislation, and were ready with our lawsuit once he did.”
The lawsuit also seeks an injunction on implementing the law pending adjudication, which the League’s Patti Brigham hopes would be the first step in making SB 90 null and void. The case, says Brigham, extends beyond the state line.
“I’ve seen coverage on this in national publications like the Washington Post,” said Brigham. “So, the nation’s eyes are on Florida.”
The League of Women Voters joins the Black Voters Matter Fund; Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and several individual voters in filing federal lawsuits over SB 90. Defendants include Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, state Attorney General Ashley Moody and local supervisors of elections.