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Trial begins over election law changes in Florida

Florida Legislatures discuss voting rights during legislative session.
Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 5:27 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2022 at 3:31 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - Monday was the first day of what is expected to be a two-week trial over election law changes passed by lawmakers in 2021. The major issues being challenged are changes to drop boxes, vote by mail ballots and who can return vote by mail ballots.

Voting rights advocates are crying foul in federal court about the changes to election laws made after 2020.

“We don’t like to ascribe intent, but it’s odd this bill would move forward after so many voted by mail in record numbers,” says Brad Ashwell of All Voting is Local.

As Senate Bill 90 moved through the 2021 session, Sponsor Dennis Baxley told Capitol News Service “I was very proud after going through some tough elections, that we had such a smooth one and I want to protect what is working well.”

The new law requires drop boxes at a supervisor’s office to be monitored by a person 24/7. Elsewhere, drop boxes can only be used during early voting hours.

“It’s a solution looking for a problem,” Ashwell told CNS.

He worries the legislation now before the federal court will make voting harder.

“There is no question SB 90 makes it harder for people to vote, whether it be registering to vote, making it harder for third-party voter registration groups to operate, or to vote by mail, making drop boxes less accessible,” says the voting rights activist.

There are new requirements and notices that third-party voting groups must give applicants they sign up. That includes telling applicants their applications might not get turned in on time.

League of Women Voters President Cecelia Scoon was the first to testify. She said that her volunteers were actually embarrassed when they have to tell a voter that the League may not turn in their application.

And while lawmakers are in the middle of their 2022 session, No major election overhaul legislation has been introduced yet, but Baxley told us to stay tuned.

In 2020, nearly 9 million Floridians voted early or by mail, while just 1.9 million votes were cast in person.

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