The Phoenix Flyer

GOP voting reforms would hurt FL voters in nursing homes and ALFs, but that could change

By: - April 22, 2021 5:05 pm

The League of Women Voters urged 2020 voters to register and vote for the candidates of their choice, whether at the polls on Election Day, in early voting, or by mail-in ballot. The league opposes Republican-sponsored bills to curtail methods of voting. Credit: League of Women Voters of Florida

Residents in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have long cast their paper ballots on-site, getting help from various people who could bring them blank ballots to be completed and then delivered to authorized sites.

But residents may not realize that lawmakers in the Florida Legislature would no longer allow that practice if controversial voting-reform measures get approved in Tallahassee.

One provision would require only immediate family members to get help with residents for on-site balloting.

On Thursday, state Sen. Janet Cruz, a Hillsborough County Democrat, told Florida senators she wants the family-only provision removed for nursing-home and ALF residents. As does AARP Florida.

Sen. Tina Polsky, a Palm Beach Democrat, spoke in support of Cruz’s recommendation.

“It has been very common practice for years and years,” Polsky said. “They’ve been doing it for years. What are these elderly, infirm people supposed to do?”

Sen. Dennis Baxley, the north-central Florida Republican sponsor of the Senate’s version of voting reforms, agreed to incorporate Cruz’s recommendation, thus allowing mail-in ballots to be completed at congregate living facilities under supervision and delivered on the voters’ behalf.

That amendment passed, while debate on the overall voting measures continued in the Senate. The House has a comparable but different voting-reform bill that also is advancing.

The League of Women Voters of Florida endorsed the change Thursday but remains opposed to both the House and Senate voting-reform bills.

“We applaud the senators for approving Senator Cruz’s amendment to make sure Florida’s seniors in nursing homes and ALFs can easily vote. However, the League continues to oppose the bill as a whole as we maintain that the legislation is completely unnecessary,” said League President Patricia Brigham, in an email to the Phoenix.

If not for Cruz’s provision, the only people who could handle mail-in ballots for others would be members of the voter’s immediate family, including grandchildren.

AARP Florida has been widely publicizing its opposition to limits on on-site balloting since April 13.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper.