Florida Legislature Sends Restrictive Elections Bill to DeSantis
UPDATE: On Wednesday, May 24, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed Senate Bill 7050 into law.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, April 28, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 7050, an omnibus elections bill that would make numerous, disparate changes to Florida election law. The bill would also change Florida’s resign-to-run law to facilitate Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) expected run for president. The bill now goes to DeSantis’ desk for his signature.
S.B. 7050 would impact large swathes of Florida’s Election Code. While many of the changes are technical, several changes to the law governing mail-in voting, third-party voter organizations and voter list maintenance could directly harm Florida voters.
The changes to mail-in voting include:
- Shortening the deadline to request a mail-in ballot by one day,
- Allowing voters to personally pick up a mail-in ballot only if they are unable to go to an early voting location or their assigned Election Day polling place,
- Directing mail-in ballot requests to be canceled if any first class mail to the voter is returned as undeliverable and
- Blocking ballots from being counted if two or more mail-in ballots are returned in the same envelope.
The bill would also require election supervisors to add personal identifying numbers to voter records, a provision included at the request of the Florida Department of State that could pave the way to requiring ID numbers on completed mail-in ballots.
The bill would also impose numerous new limitations and restrictions on third-party voter organizations that voting rights groups warned could “gut…community-based voter registration in Florida.” It would also strengthen voter list maintenance requirements that could lead to the purging of eligible voters. Finally, the bill would require county election officials to report fraudulent registrations and illegal voting to the Office of Election Crimes and Security. This new law enforcement office made news last year for arresting individuals who mistakenly thought they were eligible to vote.
In addition, the bill would amend Florida’s resign-to-run law to resolve legal ambiguity surrounding DeSantis’ expected presidential run. Currently, Florida law requires public officials running for another office that overlaps with their current term to submit a resignation from their current office before running. This resignation is irrevocable, meaning even if a candidate were to run and lose, they would still have to resign their office. The bill would instead explicitly exempt candidates running for president from this requirement, a change that would allow Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to run against former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president in 2024 without resigning his governorship.
If signed into law by DeSantis, the majority of S.B. 7050 will take effect July 1, 2023.