Florida House Moves Forward With Election Restrictions Despite Ongoing Lawsuit | Orlando Area News | Orlando

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As a federal judge weighs the constitutionality of an election law passed last year, the Florida House began moving forward on Thursday with a new proposal that includes adding steps for voting by mail and creation of a state office to investigate alleged voter fraud.

The House Public Integrity and Elections Committee voted 12-6 to approve the proposal (PCB PIE 22-03) after a debate that echoed fights surrounding the 2021 law.

Democrats argued the bill would make it harder for people to vote. Republicans argued it was necessary to help fight fraud.

But with the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee also approving the Senate version (SB 524) of the bill this week — and Gov. Ron DeSantis pushing for changes — it seems likely the Republican-controlled legislature will pass. such an electoral measure in the coming weeks.

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“The question we have to ask ourselves is how much fraud are we willing to tolerate in an election?” Representative Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican and former state GOP chairman, said at Thursday’s meeting. “For this state, representatives, zero. And we must always strive to have as little fraud as possible with as much access to elections as possible. This is the recipe for success. »

But Democrats said the proposed changes to mail-in ballots would be confusing, especially for people such as the elderly. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, also said the bill was tied to former Republican President Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden, though Trump won in Florida.

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“I think we just have to call it what it is,” Thompson said. “This is part of a nationwide, orchestrated effort to make it harder for people to vote because there was dissatisfaction with the outcome of the 2020 election. It is what it is.

The renewed legislative battles have begun to unfold as Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker holds a lawsuit challenging the 2021 law. Numerous voting rights organizations have filed lawsuits claiming that the law, which focused heavily on changes to the mail-in voting system, is unconstitutional. Walker, who is based in Tallahassee, began the trial on Monday.

The new bills include adding requirements for people who vote by mail. Democrats outnumbered Republicans when voting by mail in the 2020 election.

According to the bills, people voting by mail would be required to write in a designated space the last four digits of their driver’s license number, ID card number or Social Security number. Supervisors would compare the numbers to registration information. In addition, people voting by mail should use an additional envelope.

Another part of the bills would create a “Bureau of Election Crimes and Security” in the State Department. The office, in part, could open inquiries and conduct preliminary inquiries into alleged violations of election law.

In addition, the bills would require county election supervisors to scan voter rolls at least once a year, which would be more frequent than the currently required frequency of every two years. The bill would also establish additional requirements for supervisors on issues such as confirming addresses.

Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, said Florida had a successful 2020 election, but that doesn’t mean it was “perfect.”

“We have dirty buns,” Byrd said. “Every state has dirty buns. There are people on the lists who shouldn’t be there, and we’re adding provisions to make sure our lists are as accurate as possible. »

Rep. Dan Daley, D-Coral Springs, said everyone agreed they wanted a “free and fair” election. But he questioned measures such as a new office to conduct investigations.

“My concern is creating this whole new entity at taxpayers’ expense when the system seems to be working today,” Daley said.

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