Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis upset press freedom advocates on Thursday morning by granting exclusive access to the signing of a controversial voting bill to Fox News. The Donald Trump-loyalist Republican also angered half a dozen civil rights groups and individual voters who immediately sued the state over what they call a “voter suppression bill.”
The sweeping omnibus legislation, known as SB 90, ratchets up voter ID requirements, prohibits mass mailing and collection of ballots, and decreases drop box availability. DeSantis reportedly denied press access to all but the conservative media giant Fox News when signing the bill this morning.
Backed by the Democratic Party’s lawyer Marc Elias, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matter Fund, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, and three voters filed a lawsuit calling the new law a Republican response to unprecedented turnout last year and Trump’s “dangerous lie” of election fraud.
“Republican legislators passed the bill over strong objection from not only voters and civil rights groups, but also the Supervisors themselves,” the complaint states.
“Those objections were well-founded: SB 90 is a bill that purports to solve problems that do not exist, caters to a dangerous lie about the 2020 election that threatens our most basic democratic values, and, in the end, makes it harder to vote without adequate justification for doing so,” it continues.
Writing that the law “does not impede all of Florida’s voters equally,” the rights groups claim the new law was “crafted to and will operate to make it more difficult for certain types of voters to participate in the state’s elections, including those voters who generally wish to vote with a vote-by-mail ballot and voters who have historically had to overcome substantial hurdles to reach the ballot box, such as Florida’s senior voters, youngest voters, and minority voters.”
The law effectively bans third parties from helping voters return their vote-by-mail ballots. The political right labels the practice as ballot harvesting; its supporters describe it as ballot collection.
The Brennan Center, a non-profit and non-partisan legal group that routinely studies election-related issues, has described the panic surrounding voter assistance as driven by voter-fraud myths.
SB 90 also requires voters to more routinely “re-request” ballots, blocks anyone other than election workers from providing food or water to voters waiting in line, and requires voter registration organizations “to recite a misleading, government-mandated ‘warning’ that has the intent to and will have the effect of discouraging Floridians from registering to vote with such organizations,” the complaint states.
The practice of providing food and drink to voters is commonly known as “line warming.”
Describing the latter provision as the “Deceptive Registration Warning,” the lawsuit asks a federal judge to block it as a compelled political speech in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The groups also seek rulings calling the drop-box restrictions, line warming bans, vote-by-mail repeat request requirement, and voter assistance prohibition an undue burden on the right to vote.
The five-count complaint also bases other challenges upon free speech and association grounds.
Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee is the lead defendant of the dozens of state and county officials sued. DeSantis himself is not a party to the lawsuit.
A representative for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who is another defendant, declined to comment on pending litigation.
Read the lawsuit below:
[image via Fox News screengrab]
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