Controversial Voting Bill Goes to the Governor's Desk

Staff Report
TALLAHASSEE — This week, the Florida Legislature passed SB 524, a controversial bill that voters' rights groups say puts up unnecessary barriers, making it more difficult for some voters to successfully participate in elections. Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the legislation into law this week.

The Republican-driven bill passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 76-41, after having previously been approved by the Senate 26-14. Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), Rep. Will Robinson (R-Bradenton), Rep. Tommy Gregory (R-Lakewood Ranch) all voted in favor of the bill, despite Republican Sec. of State Laurel Lee and elected Republican Supervisors of Elections throughout the state agreeing that Florida's elections are already secure.

Senate Bill 524 would fund an expensive Office of Election Crimes and Security that would have policing powers over election fraud. It also requires SOEs to scrub the voter rolls each year, while increasing penalties for some election-related crimes. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has championed the legislation, despite boasting as to how well Florida did in conducting an accurate election in 2020. Nearly all the provisions would take effect in July, ahead of DeSantis’ reelection campaign this November, which critics say creates a major conflict of interest.

Tucked into the bill, was a little-reported or debated element that prohibits ranked-choice voting for local, state, or federal elective office. Ranked Choice allows voters to rank their choices of candidates in order of preference.  If a candidate is the first choice of more than half of the voters, that candidate wins. But if no candidate gets the majority of the vote, the one with the least amount of support is eliminated and the second choice votes for that eliminated candidate are redistributed. The process continues until a candidate wins more than half of the vote.  

Rank My Vote Florida, an RCV advocacy group, noted that the Florida Consitution already prevents state and federal elections from employing RCV and says it is the municipalities that will be hurt. RCV advocates say that by eliminating the "spoiler effect" of a grassroots independent or third-party candidate entering an election, RCV is the best weapon against the graft and gridlock of an entrenched two-party system.

Voting groups like the League of Women Voters Florida are concerned that groups that work to help register voters could be subject to large fines, having a chilling effect on efforts to increase voter participation. 

"There simply isn’t a need in our state for such measures that make it more difficult to vote," the League told supporters in an email. "Our legislature must focus on protecting our freedom to vote, not erecting new, needless barriers."


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