MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Reaction has been swift from Florida Democrats and the NAACP after Governor Ron DeSantis signed a controversial voting bill which includes stricter voter ID requirements for voting by mail, creates limits on who can pick up and return a voter's ballot, and bans private funding for elections.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz released a statement that said DeSantis and state Republicans are more interested in holding on to power than ensuring fair access to our democracy.
"They all praised the quality of the November elections here in Florida and now they are changing the rules. For the Florida Republicans, this bill is not about election integrity, it is about blatant voter suppression, just because they can," Diaz said in the statement. "It is clear that when given a choice between defending the rights of voters or suppressing voters, the Florida Republicans will disturbingly choose to suppress and sacrifice our rights every single time. This is not a question of Republicans versus Democrats, but Republicans versus democracy."
State Senator Annette Taddeo, Vice-Chair of the Ethics and Elections Committee, noted DeSantis signed the bill (SB 90) behind closed doors and the only news outlet allowed in was Fox News. In a statement, Fox News said they did not request that that the bill signing be exclusive on "FOX News Media entities."
"Governor Ron DeSantis locked the doors to keep the media out of his signing of the most controversial pieces of legislation that directly attacks our democracy- the fundamental right to vote with ease," she said in a statement.
"Despite having record turnout in 2020 that saw Republicans notch victories in Florida, the Governor has led the charge and now signed a bill that puts undue burdens on voters to vote by mail and makes it more expensive for Supervisors of Elections to facilitate smooth elections. It's a disgrace for our democracy and a dark day in Florida as suppression and division won the day," she added.
State Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, from Plantation, and Senator Jason Pizzo, from Miami, said with the signing of the legislation, Florida voters became the latest victims of the GOP's sham crusade to limit Constitutionally protected voting rights on baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.
"This morning's showboat for-FOX News-only bill signing effectively clenched Republicans' grip on our state's election system, enacting oppressive measures to restrict voter access and empower partisan poll watchers. Democrats will fight to restore access to ensure every single voice and vote count because Floridians deserve better than this," they said in a joint statement.
State Senator Shevrin Jones said the legislation is blatant voter suppression, calling it Jim Crow 2.0. He added that it will "make it harder for voters — from low-income rural white communities to the elderly to communities of color — to have their voices heard."
"It's disturbing that, rather than actually solving the problems impacting Floridians' daily lives, Governor DeSantis and Florida Republicans choose to manufacture crises and undermine our democracy every chance they get all to desperately protect their own power," he said in a statement.
Minutes after the bill was signed, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. filed a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee challenging the law.
The lawsuit argues that SB 90 creates barriers and burdens that impact all Florida voters and disproportionately impacts the ability of Black voters, Latino voters, and voters with disabilities to cast their ballot. They said the bill violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"SB 90 represents a direct and swift backlash to Black voters' historic turnout during the 2020 election season," said Zachery Morris, LDF Assistant Counsel. "The law's suppressive and discriminatory provisions make it clear that the Florida Legislature's goal is to erect additional hurdles to inhibit Florida voters, especially disabled voters, Black voters, and Latino voters, from accessing the ballot box. These efforts are shameful and they are not new. We cannot allow elected officials to suppress votes under the guise of election integrity."
Florida joins over twenty other states, most notably Georgia, in legislative efforts to substantially restrict voting access.
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