Florida Voting Integrity Bill Immediately Faces Lawsuits After Becoming Law

May 6, 2021 Updated: May 7, 2021

A Florida bill that seeks to protect the integrity of elections has been hit with legal challenges immediately after it became law.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 6 signed into law the Republican-backed Senate Bill 90, which adds safeguards to the way people vote using ballot drop boxes and mail-in ballots. The bill has been heavily opposed by civil rights activists and Democrats, who argue that the measure disproportionately burdens African American and Latino voters’ right to vote, which they say amounts to voter suppression.

Shortly after the law was enacted, several voting rights groups filed two separate lawsuits seeking to block the enforcement of the law and declare that the measure violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

Both of the suits were filed in a federal court in Tallahassee and claim that SB 90 is illegal because the “restrictions” don’t apply to all Florida voters equally. The suits argue that the law was crafted in a way that would create substantial hurdles for senior, young, and minority voters and for voters who wish to vote by mail.

“SB 90 is a bill that purports to solve problems that do not exist, caters to a dangerous lie about the 2020 election that threatens our most basic democratic values, and, in the end, makes it harder to vote without adequate justification for doing so,” one of the lawsuits claimed (pdf).

The lawsuits took particular issue with the new safeguards on ballot drop boxes such as the availability, location, and supervision of the boxes. The plaintiffs also opposed measures banning organizations and volunteers from collecting absentee ballots, additional requirements for re-requesting absentee ballots, and the provision that bans solicitation activities around polling locations including the distribution of free food and water.

“Together, these foregoing provisions … target almost every aspect of the voting process, and they do so without a legitimate purpose, much less a compelling state interest that can justify their restrictions on the franchise,” one of the lawsuits alleged.

One of the lawsuits was co-filed by Democratic attorney Marc Elias of Perkins Coie, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Black Voters Matter Fund, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, and several individuals.

Meanwhile, the other lawsuit (pdf) was filed by NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), Disability Rights Florida, and Common Cause.

LDF’s assistant counsel Zachery Morris said in a statement that the law represents “a direct and swift backlash to Black voters’ historic turnout during the 2020 election season.”

“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,” Morris said.

Responding to the lawsuits, DeSantis’s office characterized the claims as “meritless” and argued that they “grossly mischaracterize the legislation.”

A spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email: “With the Governor’s signing of SB 90, Florida will remain a leader on election security, ballot integrity, and the protection of every vote. Florida’s new election reforms make it easy to legally vote but hard to cheat. We look forward to defeating these baseless claims in court.”

The enactment of Florida’s SB 90 comes weeks after Georgia passed a similar law aimed at protecting the sanctity of the ballot box. Democrats have been unilaterally opposed to both election measures and their criticism of the measures has led to a list of multinational corporations such as Delta and Coca-Cola—and their CEOs—echoing those concerns.

Kemp and Republicans have repeatedly pushed back on Democratic talking points about Georgia’s law, characterizing the narrative as misleading. Kemp has previously said that “it’s easier to vote in Georiga” with the new law “than it is in New York.”

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan