Florida Senate Committee Advances Elections Bill Restricting Voting and Criminalizing Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, April 4, the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee advanced  Senate Bill 7050, an omnibus elections bill that revises multiple parts of the state’s election code. The bill passed along party lines with all three of the committee’s Democratic members voted against advancing the bill.

While much of the bill involves technical revisions to many disparate parts of Florida election law — such as the meeting time for canvassing boards, data reporting requirements and write-in presidential candidates — several aspects of the bill could directly harm voters if enacted into law.

The bill requires all first-time voters without a Florida ID or social security number to vote in-person. Previously, these voters could vote by mail — a method over two millions Floridians utilized in 2022 — as long as they included a copy of an identifying document with their mail-in ballot.

Mail-in Voting

Apart from this new requirement to vote in person, S.B. 7050 makes numerous other changes to mail-in voting, even though Florida already enacted many restrictions through 2021’s Senate Bill 90. Most concerningly, the newly introduced bill would

  • Shorten the deadline to request a mail-in ballot by one day,
  • Allow 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,
  • Direct mail-in ballot requests to be canceled if any first class mail to the voter is returned as undeliverable and
  • Block 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.

Third-Party Voter Registration Organizations

S.B 7050 includes several provisions targeting third-party voter registration organizations. The bill would mandate that organizations re-register every single election cycle and prohibit organizations from prefilling information on registration applications. S.B. 7050 would also direct organizations to deliver applications within 10 days of completion, rather than 14, and increase the fines associated with failing to comply with these requirements.

Election Criminalization

The bill would also build on last year’s creation of the Office of Election Crimes and Security (OECS) by requiring county election supervisors to report fraudulent registrations and illegal voting to the new office and empowering the office to refer investigations to the Department of Law Enforcement, Office of Statewide Prosecution or the state attorney with jurisdiction. Additionally, the bill would require that information cards given to voters indicate that they are not “legal verification of the eligibility to vote,” likely in response to the OECS investigating individuals for illegal voting, despite these voters receiving registration cards and believing they were eligible to vote as a result.

Voter List Maintenance

Finally, the bill would strengthen requirements for list maintenance, a process that could lead to the purging of otherwise eligible voters. It would

  • Require election officials to use more sources of change-of-address information to remove voters,
  • Mandate election officials to review registrations at least once a year to identify voters who aren’t registered at legal residence and initiate removal of those voters,
  • Clarify that voter registrations can be removed in response to “official” information from any source, not just those identified in Florida law and
  • Speed up the removal process by adding deadlines for voters to respond to notices of removal and deadlines for election officials to make final determinations of voters’ eligibility.

During a hearing on the bill today, Sen. Tina Polsky (D) criticized the rushed drafting process of the bill and expressed skepticism about the intention behind the bill. “If this bill was so benign, we would have seen it a lot earlier. Every change I’ve seen…has been intentional to hurt one party over the other, so there’s just not a lot of trust here.”

As stated in the hearing, the bill will now head to another committee for approval, though the committee members did not specify which committee S.B. 7050 will head to next.

Read S.B. 7050 here.

Track the status of S.B. 7050 here.