This story was originally published on WGCU.org.
Senate Bill 90 passed in the Florida Senate and was signed by Governor DeSantis last May. Its provisions amend the state election laws to, according to the Florida Senate’s website, “improve election security, transparency, and administration.” Here’s what you should know about the bill before the state elections this fall.
Senate Bill 90 requires voters who choose to vote by mail to provide a Florida driver’s license number, or the last four digits of their social security number. Voters who choose to vote in person can be verified by providing their date of birth and current address.
Tommy Doyle, the supervisor of elections in Lee County, said some voters were initially concerned about the requirements for voting by mail, since part of the population may not have a driver’s license. Doyle said this is not a concern as most people either have a driver's license, Florida ID number, or a social security number.
“We haven’t seen an issue yet where a voter could not request to vote by mail, or change his record, or having any problem doing that,” Doyle said.
Doyle said that voters should be aware that when they drop off ballots in person, they cannot have more than two ballots besides those from immediate family members.
This may be an issue if someone is unable to take their own ballot to the drop-box. Cecile Scoon, the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said this is unfair. “They made it a crime out of the blue,” she said. In the past, voters were allowed to drop off multiple ballots in drop-boxes, as long as they weren’t being paid.
Scoon said this practice has been common-place in various groups, such as churches. People would help elderly voters by dropping off their ballots for them.
While Senate Bill 90 was created in part to improve election security, the measures it takes have experienced significant push-back, specifically, from third-party registration organizations. Scoon believes that many provisions in the bill are unfair.
Blake Summerlin, the statewide communications manager for the League of Women Voters in Florida, said that the League believes Senate Bill 90 will affect all Florida voters, but it will have a disproportionate impact on elderly voters, voters with disabilities, students, and communities of color.
“[The] legislation makes voter-registration drives, voting by mail, and rendering basic assistance to voters in line needlessly difficult, resulting in voting suppression,” Summerlin stated.
For instance, instead of monitoring drop-boxes with security cameras, they now have to be monitored by election personnel. As a result, drop-boxes are open during posted hours of operation.
Scoon said this could pose an issue to much of the working population, as they may not be able to turn their ballots in on time due to conflicting work schedules.
“That’s completely illogical. On its face, that’s destructive and harmful to the citizens,” Scoon said. “When you take away drop-boxes and their accessibility, you’re basically saying only white-collar workers are gonna be preferred.”
The senate offered Senate Bill 524 to help clarify legislation of Senate Bill 90. One clarification focuses on fines for third-party voters.
Third-party voter registration organizations are registered with the state, and send in voter registration applications for processing. Senate Bill 524 increases fines for these organizations if they fail to meet certain requirements. These organizations can be fined up to $50,000 a year. Previously, third-party voter registration organizations could be fined no more than $1,000 per year. While it has not been signed by the governor yet, the Florida Senate’s website states that Senate Bill 524 is set to become law, except as otherwise specifically provided in the act.
“They are targeting groups like the League when they say, ‘We will fine you if you do anything wrong, and we’re willing to fine you out of existence,’” Scoon said.
While parts of the bill were created to keep third-party voter registration organizations accountable, Scoon said that this legislation hurts third-parties like the League of Women Voters. Scoon said the League trains their members carefully, especially regarding the need to turn in voter registration applications on time.
Senate Bill 90 requires that third-party voter registration organizations advise people that the organization might not turn in their voting registration forms in time. Third-party voter registration organizations are required to turn in voter registration forms to the respective county within 14 days after the forms are completed by the voter. If third-parties turn in registration forms late, they are fined.
“We still have to say [we may not turn applications in on time], which would break confidence,” Scoon said. “You’re talking to someone, trying to encourage them to register to vote and then, ‘oh, I may not turn this in on time.’ That’s just a killer.”
According to Senate Bill 90, third parties also must inform voters that they can register to vote at the Supervisor of Elections Office, or online. Scoon is discouraged by this as third parties exist to help people vote.
"We have to say, 'You can register on your own...' It basically dissuades a person from taking action right there, with a human being who can help them," Scoon said. “It seemed to be encouraging people not to register."
Scoon said that the League of Women Voters is rigorous in their voter registration process already. Provisions in Senate Bill 90 require third-party voter registration organizations to be even more careful to avoid heavy fines.
“We’re on this journey of trying to do this work, and all of these voter registration bills make our jobs harder,” Scoon said. “It makes the stakes for even an innocent mistake much higher. It’s frustrating, it’s angering.”
Doris Cortese from the Lee Republican Women Federated has been reached out via phone and email on two separate occasions for an interview. Cortese has not responded.
The Latest from the League
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, a US federal court struck down key provisions of Florida’s Senate Bill 90 that equated to voter suppression. Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker ruled that Florida’s Senate Bill 90 violates federal law, unconstitutionally impeding the right to vote for Floridians. He noted that “the right to vote, and the VRA particularly, are under siege.”
Last night, the faux-news show The Daily Show took on Florida’s new voter registration law.