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The fight over Florida's new elections laws continue to divide the state

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Posted at 9:14 AM, Oct 20, 2021

TAMPA, FLA. — Florida elections have been plagued with drama for decades, before and after the hanging chads in 2000.

“It’s been kind of a struggle for us,” said Deborah Kauffman, the president of the Hillsborough County League of Women Voters.

But last year’s presidential election didn’t have recount issues, claims of election fraud, or even court battles here in Florida. Several other states had those issues.

“We had a really good election here,” Kauffman said. “The supervisors of elections were commended because they did a great job. Even though we had over a million people using mail-in ballots they had our election results — in Florida — on election night.”

After election night, Governor Ron DeSantis said “people are actually looking at Florida and asking, why can’t these states be more like Florida?"

Most people — Republicans and Democrats — agree. However, Florida Republicans added restrictions to the state’s voting process.

“I think that’s a good thing,” said Republican State Rep Anthony Sabatini.

Sabatini supports the restrictions even though last year’s election process worked so well.

“We need confidence in our elections, and security in our elections,” he said.

The new laws limit the use of drop boxes and require them to be supervised in person by election officials. Dropbox locations will need to be picked at least a month before elections and will not be available after hours.

There will be limits on what’s called “ballot harvesting,” when a person collects several mail-in ballots and delivers them to drop boxes.

The bill will also require voters to request mail-in ballots on a more regular basis.

The no-solicitation zone outside polling places will be expanded with restrictions on who can hand out items to voters in line, including water and food.

“The restrictions that have been put in place clearly hurt people who are less advantaged,” said Ione Townsend, the chairwoman for the Hillsborough County Democratic Party.

“We’re concerned about how this law oppresses all voters,” she said.

Several organizations, like the NAACP and the state chapter for the League of Women Voters are suing the state over people speaking out.

“I think that’s really mean spirited and racist,” Sabatini said.

He believes democrats fighting the laws “just want to divide the country.”

“We see that a lot with elected Democrats,” he said. “The law simply says if you want to go out and vote you just have to go ask for a ballot and prove you’re that person.”

While the legal battle over this plays out in court, others are working to educate voters about the changes before the upcoming election.

“That is our job at the League of Women voters here in Hillsborough County,” said Kauffman.

Kauffman and many others are concerned that the changes will discourage some voters.

“I think people who are new citizens, or younger folks are fed up,” she said. “We try to convince them why it’s important.”