Friday, 22 Sep 2023

A dangerous trend: Florida Republicans poised to pass more voter restrictions

A dangerous trend: Florida Republicans poised to pass more voter restrictions


A dangerous trend: Florida Republicans poised to pass more voter restrictions

Florida Republicans are on the verge of passing new restrictions on groups that register voters, a move voting rights groups and experts say will make it harder for non-white Floridians to get on the rolls.

The restrictions are part of a sweeping 96-page election bill the legislature is likely to send to Governor Ron DeSantis's desk soon. The measure increases fines for third-party voter registration groups. It also shortens the amount of time the groups have to turn in any voter registration applications they collect from 14 days to 10. The bill makes it illegal for non-citizens and people convicted of certain felonies to "collect or handle" voter registration applications on behalf of third-party groups. Groups would also have to give each voter they register a receipt and be required to register themselves with the state ahead of each general election cycle. Under current law, they only have to register once and their registration remains effective indefinitely.

Groups can now be fined $50,000 for each ineligible person they hire to do voter canvassing. They can also be fined $50 a day, up to $2,500, for each day late they turn in a voter registration form.

Those restrictions are more likely to affect non-white Floridians. About one in 10 Black and Hispanic Floridians registered to vote using a third-party group, according to Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida who closely studies voting rights. Non-white voters are five times more likely to register with a third-party group in the state than their white counterparts, "a fact likely not lost on those pushing the legislation", Smith said.

"This will likely be the final nail in the coffin for third-party groups to be able to register voters in Florida," added Smith, who has served as an expert for groups challenging similar new restrictions.

The bill passed the Florida senate on Wednesday and is expected to clear the Florida house later this week.

The measures are the latest in a wave of new restrictions Florida Republicans and DeSantis, who is on the verge of a presidential bid, have enacted in a little over four years. After the 2020 election, the state passed sweeping legislation making it harder to request and return a mail-in ballot. Republicans have also made it nearly impossible for Floridians with a felony conviction to figure out if they are eligible to vote. Last year, DeSantis created the first of its kind state agency to prosecute election crimes.

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