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House panel in Florida advances voter fraud bill despite 2020 successes

'We should never rest on our laurels,' Rep. Blaise Ingoglia says
Posted at 5:22 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 18:56:08-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A House panel has advanced a big bill overhauling Florida election law.

In a party-line vote of 11-6, the GOP majority pushed through the measure, which touches on registration, drop boxes and voting by mail.

It's another victory for Republicans, who are trying to answer the governor's call for an election integrity bill following 2020. That's despite the state seeing no evidence of widespread fraud last year.

State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, is sponsoring the Public Integrity and Elections Committee's bill. He says success in the past does not mean Florida can pause on fraud.

State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia
State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia says the bill would make election drop boxes more secure.

“We should never rest on our laurels," Ingoglia said. "We should never pass up an opportunity to make a good thing better.”

His 44-page bill targets a slew of reforms. Among them:

  • Needing a license or Social Security number to change voter registrations
  • Limiting designees who can pick up or drop off a ballot to immediate family or same-home residents.
  • Mail ballot requests would cover just one, not two, election cycles. (The bill does allow for grandfathering of requests from as far back as 2018.)

The legislation departs from a Senate measure on dropboxes. Instead of eliminating them, it standardizes how they can be used across the state and requires security like guards and cameras. Anyone dropping off a ballot would need to present an ID.

"We want to keep the current infrastructure when it comes to dropboxes," Ingoglia said. "Just make sure they're more safe and secure and some guardrails on it."

Election supervisors had some major concerns with the proposals.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley
Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley says if the bill is enacted it could raise costs.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley, who also serves as vice president of the supervisors association, said the bill would put an extra burden on election workers, possibly slowing results and raising costs for counties.

"Florida had great elections this past election year under extremely challenging conditions," he said. "It’s going to make it impossible for us to have such great results in the future."

Democrats labeled the changes as unneeded and said they would create new voting hurdles that could disenfranchise those with disabilities or who prefer mail ballots.

"Voters trust the election system," said State Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville. "What we're doing here would cancel all of that."

Addressing concerns, Ingoglia said he was open to revisions before his bill reached the House floor. Specifically, he said he would look into creating exceptions for voters living alone or without immediate family wishing to use a designee.

Anything the House passes will need reconciliation with the Senate's version. For the moment, the two remain vastly different.