The new legislation appears calculated to discourage volunteers from registering new voters, and could disproportionally affect Black, Latino and Generation Z Floridians.
Florida voters, here we go again! The state Legislature’s efforts to change the voting laws continue to be as predictable as storms during hurricane season. Despite claiming that in 2020 the Sunshine State had “the most transparent and efficient election anywhere in the country,” Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Republicans continue to push for more restrictions to improve “confidence” in the system.
A year ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis got his $5 million elections police force. The year before, the Legislature restricted the use of ballot drop boxes. And last week SB 7050, Florida’s latest election reform was approved by the state House along party lines, bringing another batch of election changes to Floridians.
Making It Harder for New Voters
To some, this new legislation appears calculated to discourage volunteers from registering new voters.
For example, the bill would make it harder for third-party organizations that work with low-income communities and women to register voters by giving them only 10 days, rather than 14, to submit newly-completed voter registration forms to the local county supervisor of elections. It would also require the organizations to re-register with the state every election cycle.
In Florida, 1 out of 10 Hispanic voters (10%) were registered by third-party organizations, as opposed to 2 out of every hundred white voters (2%), according to Daniel Smith, the chair of political science at the University of Florida.
“Black and Hispanic voters are five times more likely to be registered to vote by these organizations than white voters,” says Kirk Bailey, political director of the ACLU of Florida. “Lawmakers know this is a bill that would disproportionately impact many Black and brown Floridians who rely on community-based groups to keep them updated on voting rules, which are already difficult to understand.”
Generation Z and Renters Also Impacted
The bill could also impact a whole demographic, specifically members of Gen-Z. That’s because first-time Florida voters who have not received a state-issued driver’s license, identification card, or Social Security number, would be required to vote in person unless exempted by a federal mandate. Thousands of out-of-state college students may not have state-issued IDs or Social Security numbers, or even a car to drive themselves to the polls.
Additionally, Floridians who move out of their homes due to skyrocketing rent prices may find themselves unable to vote if they have not updated their driver licenses/IDs, warns Democratic Rep. Kevin D. Chambliss.
“When it comes to people in my district, many of them are renters, people who are very, very transient,” Rep. Chambliss said on the House floor. “I’m very concerned about some of the language as it relates to trying to confirm someone’s last known address, as well as the process in which we are taking voters off the rolls. What our data shows is that when we’re taking voters off the roll, it seems that Black Floridians, Hispanic Floridians seem to be taken off at a higher [rate] than other communities. We want to make sure that […] we’re being sensitive to that fact.”
Sen.Tina Polsky (D), a fellow Democrat, agreed.
“Every change I’ve seen [in this bill] has been intentional to hurt one party over the other, so there’s just not a lot of trust here,” said Polsky.
The bill also allows DeSantis to remain governor if he decides to run for president by reforming the state’s current “resign-to-run” law which would require him to resign before mounting a presidential bid.
SB 7050 is now headed to the governor’s desk for his signature.