After dueling allegations that it was either a “protection against voting fraud” or a “disenfranchisement act,” Florida lawmakers on Thursday approved a 157-page overhaul of the state’s elections code.
The House voted 77-38 along party lines to pass the bill (HB 1355); the Senate had voted 25-13 earlier in the day. Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Mike Fasano of New Port Richey were the only Senate Republicans to break ranks and vote against it. The measure now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to sign it into law. Among other provisions, the bill reduces early voting time to one week and requires groups that sign up voters to register with the state.
Immediately after the vote, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked Scott to veto the bill. If Scott signs it, Nelson said he’ll ask the Justice Department to look into whether it violates federal voting-rights law.
“There are just too many questions about whether this measure would disenfranchise an untold number of Floridians,” Nelson said.
No matter their party affiliation, Floridians still smart over their state’s reputation from 2000, made famous by butterfly ballots, hanging chads and an aborted presidential-election recount.
Rep. Franklin Sands, a Weston Democrat, summed up the view of his colleagues in the House: “This is a mean-spirited attempt to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters and no more.”
But Erik Fresen, R-Miami, said Democrats were getting off topic.
“Citizenship comes with responsibility,” Fresen said. “We’re coddling our voters as if they were children who don’t understand the responsibility of citizenship.”