The Phoenix Flyer

Elections bill helps out Gov. DeSantis and his presidential aspirations

By: - May 1, 2023 10:06 am

Credit: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

At the end of last week, the Florida House approved a nearly 100-page elections bill on Friday that came with a present to Gov. Ron DeSantis: The contentious bill includes a provision that will ensure DeSantis does not need to resign if he opts to run for president in 2024.

The measure (HB 7050) is the third major bill to reform the state’s election system in the past three legislative sessions, despite the fact that Florida’s GOP leaders have boasted about how successful the 2020 and 2022 elections were conducted.

The latest elections bill, approved Friday, goes to the governor’s desk for consideration. (The Florida Senate had already passed its version of the bill.)

Democrats and voting rights group strongly oppose the new measure on a number of fronts. Much of their criticisms center around the increased fines that will be imposed on third-party voter registration groups for submitting voter registration forms in late.

Democratic House Leader Fentrice Driskell introduced an amendment on the House floor Friday that would lower the maximum fines those groups could be charged for turning those forms in late, noting how they’ve gone up dramatically from an elections bill in 2021. But the amendment was not adopted.

“Fines were raised from $1,000 to $50,000 in 2021. That’s part of what we did as Senate bill 90. So if this bill were to pass … what it means is that we would have raised the fine from $1,000 to $250,000 in two years. That’s way too much. It’s onerous.” The amendment was not adopted.

Third-party voter registration groups must also provide a receipt to each applicant upon accepting possession of their voter registrations application. And the groups would have to re-register with the state for every single election cycle.

The measure also requires that those third-party groups must have U.S. citizens to handle and collect those voter registration forms.

“These are U.S. elections,” said Hillsborough County Republican Lawrence McClure, the bill sponsor in the House, in explaining the need for that provision. “We’re just simply saying in an abundance of caution for that potential voter’s personal information, that at the time they hand over that sacred information, that it goes to a U.S. citizen for collection and handling purposes only.”

The bill also includes adding a statement to voter registration cards that make it clear that a voter, and not the state, is responsible for determining is legally eligible to vote.

In the House on Friday, the measure passed along straight party lines, 76-34.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.