TALLAHASSEE – Florida lawmakers labored into the evening Thursday to approve a pair of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ prime priorities: New limits on mail ballots and drop containers together with recent sanctions on social media platforms.
Each measures grew out of final November’s presidential elections. Democrats outperformed Republicans in voting-by-mail, and former President Trump was banned from social media websites over the lethal rebellion on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The elections overhaul drew fierce debate Thursday within the Senate, which accredited the measure 23-17, with Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg the lone Republican opposed. The Home adopted go well with, 77-40, largely alongside celebration strains.
The laws (SB 90) would require voters wanting a mail poll after subsequent yr’s elections to make the request earlier than each basic election.
As soon as signed by DeSantis, it additionally restricts drop containers to early voting websites throughout their hours of operation or to an elections supervisor’s workplace – they usually must be supervised by an elections staffer.
Furthermore, elections supervisors could possibly be topic to $25,000 fines for leaving a drop field unattended.
“I feel that’s a slap within the face … towards our supervisors of elections,” mentioned Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami. “It is mindless that that is nonetheless on this invoice.”
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Elections measure much less restrictive than Georgia’s
The elections adjustments are much less restrictive than what Florida Republicans earlier proposed – and much lower than what some GOP-controlled legislatures have superior in different states, notably Georgia, the place they’ve prompted enterprise boycotts.
However they continue to be politically charged.
Florida performed a largely flawless election final November, prompting Democrats to query the motives behind the overhaul. Additionally they challenged new restrictions limiting who can drop off ballots for others and barring nongovernmental organizations from serving to to finance elections.
“This invoice is just not wanted,” mentioned Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville. “It’s nonetheless a suppression invoice, and we will do higher as a state.”
However Republicans argue “guardrails” are wanted. Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, mentioned the revisions will improve poll safety.
“We did have an ideal election,” Hutson mentioned. “So why ought to we be happy there?”
A file 11.1 million voters solid ballots in Florida final November – with 43%, or 4.eight million Floridians, voting by mail. Of these, about 1.5 million used drop containers.
About 45% of Democrats voted by mail in November, in contrast with 31% of Republicans in Florida. The imbalance stemmed from Trump discouraging voting-by-mail, insisting with out proof that the follow was rife with fraud.
Social media invoice aimed toward ‘de-platforming’
The social media invoice drew much less debate – but additionally was ripped from the headlines of the final presidential election.
That laws (SB 7072) imposes hefty fines on Twitter, Fb and different websites that censor individuals – much like what occurred to Trump and plenty of different conservative customers posting doubtful content material about election fraud, COVID-19 and different points.
It was accredited 23-17 within the Senate and 77-37 within the Home.
It orders social media firms to publish requirements with detailed definitions of when somebody could be censored or blocked and makes firms topic to as a lot as $250,000 day by day fines for de-platforming a Florida candidate.
The invoice additionally requires a web site to inform customers inside seven days that they could possibly be censored, giving them time to appropriate the posting.
State and federal courts have typically taken a hands-off view involving regulating on-line platforms. Congress additionally has not weighed into the controversy, though the motion involving Trump has revived discussions.
Florida’s transfer raises a bunch of constitutional points, with opponents saying it violates each interstate commerce and free speech protections.
DeSantis known as for Florida to now regulate the websites by condemning the “oligarchs in Silicon Valley” for deplatforming Trump and different conservatives.
With out citing proof, DeSantis mentioned the privately owned on-line giants are utilizing their measurement, promoting energy and world attain to affect thought and play favorites – being harder on those that remark from the political proper than left.
DeSantis revived his criticism lately after a roundtable he held in March was taken down from YouTube as a result of the governor and scientists he invited had been accused of airing COVID-19 misinformation.
John Kennedy is a reporter within the USA TODAY Community’s Florida Capital Bureau. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @JKennedyReport.