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Florida lawmakers beef up elections bill to eliminate ballot drop boxes

'There is nothing wrong with securing a great system,' Sen. Dennis Baxley says
Was your mail in ballot counted?
Posted at 6:22 PM, Mar 10, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida is on its way to dropping ballot drop boxes.

Wednesday morning, a Senate panel advanced a beefed-up version of SB 90 along party lines, sending it to its final committee before reaching the full chamber.

The bill not only requires voters to request mail ballots every election cycle, instead of every other, it also limits mail ballot pick-up and drop-off to immediate family members and eliminates ballot drop boxes. About 1.5 million Floridians used them last year.

"Folks, there is nothing wrong with securing a great system," said bill sponsor Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, to the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee. "[Florida] has shown outstanding numbers, and I believe we'll show more."

Florida State Sen. Dennis Baxley
Florida Sen. Dennis Baxley says he has no concerns that the bill will suppress voting.

Florida's GOP majority has pursued the legislation despite 2020 being free from fraud. Leadership wants the changes to bolster vote security and ensure an accurate count.

Democrats have said the bill will depress turnout.

"We don't need to make obstacles for our voters," said Sen. Victor Torres, D-Kissimmee, during the committee debate. "We have voters here with different languages, different issues, and we need to make sure they're allowed to vote."

Florida election supervisors have joined those frustrated with the bill. They took particular aim at the drop-box provision, calling it unneeded.

Florida State Sen. Victor Torres
State Sen. Victor Torres believes the bill will cause more obstacles for people trying to cast their ballot.

"Drop boxes are the gold standard," said Leon County Supervisor Mark Earley, who's also vice president of the Florida election supervisors association. "I know of no supervisors who are in support of this bill."

Republican and Lake County Election Supervisor Alan Hays said he knew of no evidence drop boxes in the 2020 election had been tampered with. He pointed out every ballot drop box is monitored, which can't be said for all mailboxes.

"You’re not going to pay a cop to stand at the post office box, are you?" Hays said. "I think this bill needs a lot of work."

Florida Supervisors of Elections VP Mark Earley
Florida Supervisors of Elections VP Mark Earley pushed back on the elimination of election drop boxes.

Hays also suggested changing the frequency voters need to request mail ballots will cost counties up to $16 million. He said approval would mean supervisors need to notify around 6 million voters to re-register for 2022 mail ballots.

Baxley pushed those concerns to the side, saying supervisors should stay in their lane.

"We are the policymakers and they are the implementers," Baxley said. "We truly believe that these policies will give us a more solid system. They clearly are looking for things that will help them be more functional.”

The Senate bill next heads to the Rules Committee before it can reach the chamber floor. A similar version for House members has yet to be filed but is expected.