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Controversial election bill to be watered down on Senate floor

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 6:45 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - The controversial election reform bill that makes a number of changes to mail ballots in Florida cleared its final committee in the Senate Tuesday, but the sponsor has promised changes on the floor to water down some of the more contentious aspects of the bill.

The election reform bill has been highly debated and criticized by Democrats who argue it’s akin to voter suppression.

“The right to vote should be encouraged, never imperiled,” said Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer.

But in its final committee stop, Senate sponsor Dennis Baxley indicated changes were coming.

“The purpose, at least for me, has been to clarify our intent for secure, fair and even handed elections,” said Baxley.

Baxley told us one of the provisions on the chopping block is the requirement election supervisors to use a ‘wet’ signature on file, not an electronic one, to verify vote by mail ballots.

“It was very convoluted and misunderstood about how to do that, so we’re just pulling that away,” said Baxley.

Another expected change will allow volunteers to give water to voters in line at the polls.

“We’re interested in the concern and wellbeing of the participants,” said Baxley.

Farmer said that change will prevent Florida from receiving some of the criticism lobbed at the Georgia election law.

“You know, it’s frankly a life, health, safety issue that really needed to be fixed,” said Farmer.

Democrats still have concerns with the legislation including the requirement ballot drop boxes be staffed and requiring mail ballot requests to be renewed each election cycle.

“I don’t envision amendments happening to SB-90 that would get the Democrats to the point where our caucus would support it,” said Farmer.

So far every election supervisor has opposed the legislation.

The hope is the promised changes will be enough to earn their support.

Baxley told us there are still some aspects of the legislation are still being negotiated with the House.

Lawmakers have less than two weeks to come to a final agreement before the end of session.

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