Florida governor tightens voter law in appeal to Trump base

AFP
Miami, United States Published: May 07, 2021, 09:28 AM(IST)

US elections 2020 Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

DeSantis signed the law in Palm Beach near the private Mar-a-Lago club where Trump has resided since leaving the White House in January

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican US presidential candidate in 2024, signed into law Thursday an election security bill certain to please supporters of Donald Trump, but which critics warn poses blatant barriers to voting.

By implementing SB90, which restricts voting by mail, requires valid voter identification and prohibits use of private funds to finance campaigns, Florida joins a growing list of Republican-run states that have tweaked voter laws following Trump's baseless charge of fraud in last year's election.

DeSantis signed the law in Palm Beach near the private Mar-a-Lago club where Trump has resided since leaving the White House in January.

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The event itself stirred controversy. Supporters of the former president were in attendance, and Fox News — seen by many as pro-Trump — was the only television network allowed, as other local channels were barred entry. 

In a statement, DeSantis said the bill will "strengthen the security of our elections." As he signed the measure he defended one of its many controversial elements: the restriction of vote-by-mail drop boxes.

"They need to be monitored," DeSantis told morning show Fox & Friends as supporters behind him cheered. "You can't just leave these boxes out where there's no supervision."

Although there was no suspicion of fraud in Florida during November's presidential election, DeSantis said the law will ensure Floridians that "your vote is going to be cast with integrity and transparency."

More Democrats than Republicans voted by mail in November because of the pandemic and these ballots helped tip the balance in favor of Trump's Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Suffering reelection defeat, Trump claimed voter fraud — a baseless charge dismissed by dozens of courts across multiple states.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat elected in the state's administration, accused DeSantis of signing the law to satisfy Trump and his base, whose support the governor seeks as he weighs his political future.

"The only fraud that I saw was by the Republicans," Fried told reporters.

"We know that the only reason to sign this piece of legislation... was for one person," she said, referring to Trump.

Critics of the new measure say the bill, approved last week by Florida's Republican-controlled legislature, is a form of voter suppression.

"Republicans across the country know they're failing to connect with and deliver for the American people, so they’ve decided their winning playbook centers on making it harder for them to make their voices heard," said Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said it "creates barriers and burdens that impact all Florida voters, and disproportionally impacts the ability of Black voters, Latino voters and voters with disabilities to cast their ballot."

Unlike many other countries, the United States does not issue national identification cards.

Identity during US elections is verified through a driver's license or other forms of acceptable ID, which some people, disproportionally low-income and minority Americans, do not have.  

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