A Florida Senate committee Monday moved forward with a bill that would make a few changes in Florida election law, including putting new restrictions on drop-off locations for absentee ballots and allowing online voter registration in the state. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee unanimously approved introducing the measure (SPB 7068), which will still have to return to the panel for another vote. Because of that, Democrats backed away from offering amendments that could still become flash points in the debate over the measure. Much of the controversy over the provisions in the bill focused on language that would allow elections supervisors to provide secure boxes to receive absentee ballots, but only at early-voting locations and supervisor of elections’ offices.
The online voting-registration portion of the bill, following legislation filed by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, was applauded by Democrats on the committee and voting-rights organizations, though some are concerned about a provision that would require people who register online to vote in person rather than by absentee ballot when they vote for the first time.
The part of the bill concerning absentee drop-off boxes is a response to a Nov. 25 directive by Secretary of State Ken Detzner essentially ordering supervisors to stop providing locations other than the supervisors’ offices where voters could drop off completed absentee ballots.
But Pinellas County Supervisor Deborah Clark threatened to defy that order in a set of elections to choose a successor for the late Congressman C.W. Bill Young. Eventually, Detzner agreed not to go to court in an effort to force Clark to follow the directive.