Depending on who you listen to, Florida Republicans are either about to revive Jim Crow or defend our democracy.
The final version of the election administration bill SB 90 passed through the state House and Senate along partisan lines on April 29. This was against the wishes of many citizens, Democrats, and supervisors of elections from both sides of the political spectrum.
Other news articles on SB 90 have focused on how it will restrict vote-by-mail and ballot drop boxes. It will also restrict the solicitations near polling places, self-funding of political campaigns, and how people not registered with a political party can register their candidacy.
Funny how we need the most recently elected politicians to fix our election process.
Does SB 90 actually help anybody?
If you’re involved in organizing the election process or helping people vote, then this bill makes your life more inconvenient.
If you’re a voter who depends on voting remotely or who has digitally registered to vote, then this bill makes your life more inconvenient.
If you’re someone who feels like the 2020 election was stolen, then there is the inconvenient truth that none of this was done to protect our democracy.
SB 90 was born in the past legislative session when Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-Pinellas, introduced it on Feb. 3; it seems to have been a high priority for the GOP. The original version only existed to force voters to reregister for vote-by-mail each election season, starting in 2022.
SB 90 is an indirect insult and attack to the voter registration and mail-in-ballot registration efforts Democrats across the state pulled off in 2020. If the piece of legislation could talk, it would whisper, “Do it all over again, I dare you!”
Perhaps that’s too dramatic, but just ask yourself: Why are party Republicans so hot and bothered about this?
They are patriots, that goes without saying. Much like the Georgia GOP.
Unlike the Republicans in Georgia who are still dealing with the ramifications of banning people from distributing water while waiting in line at the polls, Florida Republicans live in a state that is growing more red. They are not threatened by a blue wave right now.
However, if we recall how Gov. Ron DeSantis is up for reelection in 2022, and how close his margin of victory was previously (beating Andrew Gillum by only 0.4% in 2018), then this skewing of voting laws is more understandable.
Erode the Democrats’ chances at a statewide victory, keep the governorship in Republican hands. Simple enough.
A very cynical take, to be sure, but while we’re here, we might as well go all the way: Have you thought about how much is on the line come 2022?
Not only is winning going to keep DeSantis employed, but it is going to keep him in the hearts and minds of the people for 2024. The man is a darling in conservative circles right now. With moves like opposing Big Tech and having photo ops with former President Donald Trump, it would make sense to pull out all the stops to keep him in power.
There is a certain excitement surrounding the moves of, potentially, the first president from Florida, even if those moves involve limiting how counties can provide drop boxes for citizens. It’s exciting in the same way that watching some lunatic jumping up and down on your neighbor’s new Lexus is exciting: you don’t want to get involved but you can’t wait to see what happens.
If we were going to get involved, though, we could organize a grassroots movement to demand a repeal of these new policies or vote out the people who voted SB 90 in.
Even less realistically, the Democrats could convince a supervisor of elections to civilly disobey certain aspects of the new laws and press for a test case. This likely would not result in an overturning by the courts, but it could at least raise some publicity.
Hard to swallow, I know.
Something easier, but just as important, may be to reach out to your county supervisor of elections and offer to volunteer to monitor drop boxes so that they can afford to place them in more neighborhoods. At the end of the day, no matter what transpires in Tallahassee, we must help each other be heard.
Check out other recent articles from Florida Political Review here.
Featured Image: Chali Pittman, WORT News, used under a Creative Commons 2.0 License (https://bit.ly/3eQJVJt)