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No More Ballot Drop Boxes? Proposed Vote-By-Mail Changes Are Moving Through The Florida Legislature


State legislators are in session and one of the major Republican priorities would change how Floridians vote. It's called Senate Bill 90.

If Senate Bill 90 gets passed this legislative session, Florida voters would have to request vote-by-mail ballots more frequently in order to keep voting that way. And they would no longer be able to drive somewhere and drop off their vote-by-mail ballots.

The bill aligns with Gov. Ron DeSantis' vision for elections going forward, proposing changes to the way Floridians vote. Last month the governor described wanting to see an elections system with changes to ballot drop boxes, who can collect vote-by-mail ballots, and more scrutiny of signatures on vote-by-mail ballots.

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Despite no issues counting vote-by-mail ballots in Florida in a timely manner during the November election last year, former President Donald Trump unsuccessfully challenged election results in several states he lost in.

WLRN reporters Danny Rivero and Caitie Switalski Muñoz look to answer some frequently asked questions about the vote-by-mail request bill, and —if lawmakers pass it — what it could mean for the next time you vote.

Below is their conversation.

RIVERO: I talked with Republican State Senator Dennis Baxley after the 2020 election in November. And he shared in the overwhelming consensus that Florida got everything right in the elections, telling me that Florida's current elections law made it, "easy to vote and hard to cheat." That kind of bipartisan praise of almost any aspect of Florida politics is relatively rare, you know, in this political environment.

But now Senator Baxley has introduced a new bill that would bring huge changes to Florida elections. He says it's in order to prevent cheating in elections with these vote-by-mail ballots. Caitie, how would this bill change elections in Florida?

MUÑOZ: Well, Danny, it would eliminate all ballot drop boxes in Florida — a hugely popular way to get vote-by-mail ballots to elections officials. This bill would even get rid of drop boxes at supervisor of elections offices. So you would no longer be able to just drive it over and put it in a box. An estimated one and a half million people used the drop boxes in 2020.

The only way to get vote-by-mail ballots in, if this passes, would be by actually mailing them.

The bill would also cancel a large number of people's vote by mail requests. So instead of your request to receive a mail ballot being good for two election cycles, one presidential election and one governor's election, you'd have to request to vote by mail every single general election cycle.

RIVERO: The changes would mean hundreds of thousands of people who requested vote by mail ballots for the 2020 election would not get them in 2022. That's when a governor's race, cabinet seats and a U.S. Senate seat are up for grabs.

And we know a lot more Democrats requested vote-by-mail ballots in 2020 because of the pandemic. And we're starting to see quite a bit of pushback about these changes, considering the fact that Florida really didn't have any issues in the last election.

Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Christina White says it'll cancel about 400,000 vote-by-mail requests in Miami-Dade County alone. And she said these changes would cost local taxpayers a lot of money just to try to get people back into the system and educate the public about these changes.

In Lake County, the supervisor of elections there, Alan Hayes, spoke against the bill in a recent senate committee meeting. And Hayes is interesting because he's a former Republican state senator who is known to be extremely conservative.

MUÑOZ: We've also heard some feedback from legislators themselves on WLRN Sundial recently, Republican Representative Rick Roth agreed with a caller who said Florida shouldn't mess with a system that was celebrated for recent success.

"Well, obviously, my good friend, Senator Baxley is sponsoring that bill, so I know it's a good bill. I, I kind of agree with the caller a little bit. I think we have more important issues to deal with," Roth said on the program.

RIVERO: We know that every single supervisor of elections in the state is against the bill, both Republicans and Democrats. And that really kind of begs the question of why is this being considered?

MUÑOZ: It's a good question, Danny. There was no voter fraud with vote-by-mail ballots found in Florida and there was also no fraud found in any other states, despite rhetoric to the contrary. Gov. Ron DeSantis even made it a point to celebrate how smoothly everything went here with vote by mail as a victory for all of Florida.

RIVERO: And Caitie, what's the status of the bill right now?

MUÑOZ: It has one more stop to go. Then lawmakers can bring it to a floor vote.