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Florida House passes controversial voting bill that would add new restrictions

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After several hours of contentious debate, the Republican-controlled Florida House passed its version of a controversial bill that would add new restrictions to the voting process.

The bill, SB 90, passed on a party-line vote of 77-40 on Wednesday. The bill now goes back to the Senate with a slew of changes, after the House adopted a “strike-all amendment” that brought SB 90 closer to a similar bill that had been moving through the House.

The legislation, as amended by the Florida House, would create a long list of restrictions, including:

  • Adding new identification and signature requirements for voting by mail.
  • Expanding the “no solicitation zone” where items that could be perceived as influencing cannot be given to voters to 150 feet around a polling place or drop box site.
  • Limiting who can return a completed mail-in ballot.
  • Prohibiting private donations to be used for elections.
  • Preventing election officials from entering into consent agreements.
  • Requiring voters to submit requests for mail-in ballots annually.
  • Creating several restrictions for drop box use.

There isn’t much time for the two chambers to negotiate, since Florida’s legislative session ends Friday. If the bill is approved by the Senate, it will then head to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk for his signature.

CNN’s has reached out to DeSantis for comment on whether he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

The legislation is part of a Republican-led effort nationwide to restrict voting access at the state level in the wake of record turnout in last November’s elections. A tally by the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found that 361 bills with provisions that restrict voting had been introduced in 47 states as of March 24.

In the last month, the effort to restrict voting has intensified as state legislatures begin to head into the final months of their respective sessions.

Republicans, who have repeatedly acknowledged that Florida ran a successful and secure 2020 election, said the bill would provide “guardrails” to prevent anyone from “gaming the system” in the future.

“This is an incremental legislative approach to address these issues, similar to what we had to do to get the timeliness problem solved, to get the efficiency problem solved — we are now focusing on making sure that every vote is a valid vote,” said state Rep. Wyman Duggan, a Republican who’s a member of the House Public Integrity & Elections Committee.

Democrats have called the bill “voter suppression” and “the revival of Jim Crow in this state,” highlighting how many of the changes could make it harder for some people to exercise their voting rights.

“We’re actively trying to suppress people’s right to vote,” Democratic state Rep. Michele Rayner said on the floor Wednesday. “Instead of literacy tests and poll taxes, we are attempting to require voters to renew their standard request for a vote-by-mail ballot every calendar year.”

“The bottom line is this: If you think you need to engage in voter suppression tactics to win reelections and elections, you shouldn’t be in this building making laws,” said Rayner.

Voting rights advocates also slammed the bill’s passage as making it harder for Floridians to vote.

“SB 90 will limit voters’ options when they make a choice in the three methods to cast a ballot. It will create hurdles to every step of voting by mail. It will reduce voters’ access to ballot drop boxes. It will add to elections officials’ workload and add to the need for voter education. It will make it more difficult for the nonpartisan Election Protection volunteer program to assist voters in understanding their rights in the voting process,” Sylvia Albert of Common Cause said in a statement released following the House vote.

“Nothing about this bill is ‘for the people.’ It will only make it harder for ‘the people’ to have our voices heard and our ballots counted,” she added.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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