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Florida’s New Voting Rights Law Explained

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, signed new voting restrictions into law on Thursday, reducing voting access in one of the nation’s critical battleground states.

Florida, which former President Donald J. Trump won by about three percentage points in 2020, is the latest Republican-controlled state, following Georgia, Montana and Iowa, to impose new hurdles to casting a ballot after November’s elections.

Voting rights experts and Democrats say that some provisions of the new law will disproportionately affect voters of color.

Here’s a guide to how the law changes voting in Florida.

The law, Senate Bill 90, limits the use of drop boxes where voters can deposit absentee ballots, and adds more identification requirements for anyone requesting an absentee ballot. It also requires voters to request an absentee ballot for each two-year election cycle, rather than every four years, under the previous law. Additionally, it limits who can collect and drop off ballots.

The law also expands a current rule that prohibits outside groups from holding signsor wearing political paraphernalia within 150 feet of a polling place or drop box, “with the intent to influence voters,” an increase from the previous 100 feet.

The new law weakens key parts of an extensive voting infrastructure that was built up slowly after the state’s chaotic 2000 election. In 2020, that infrastructure allowed Florida to ramp up quickly to accommodate absentee balloting and increased drop boxes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Voters of color are most reliant on after-hours drop boxes, critics of the law say, as it’s often more difficult for them to both take hours off during the day and to organize transportation to polling places.

Republican legislators promoting the bill offered little evidence of election fraud, and argued for limiting access despite their continued claims that the state’s 2020 election was the “gold standard” for the country.

Florida has a popular tradition of voting by mail: In the 2016 and 2018 elections, nearly a third of the state’s voters cast ballots through the mail.

In both years, more Republicans than Democrats voted by mail. But in 2020, more than 2.1 million Democrats cast mail ballots, compared with 1.4 million Republicans, after Mr. Trump claimed repeatedly that expanding mail-in voting would lead to fraud.

Voting ran smoothly in 2020, by all accounts.

“There was no problem in Florida,” said Kara Gross, the legislative director and senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “Everything worked as it should. The only reason they’re doing this is to make it harder to vote.”

And Mr. DeSantis has praised Florida’s handling of November’s elections, saying that his state has “the strongest election integrity measures in the country.”

But on the need for the new law, he said: “Florida took action this legislative session to increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections.”

Read More: Florida’s New Voting Rights Law Explained

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