TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA —- A jaw-dropping 98-page bill was introduced to the Committee on Ethics and Elections Tuesday afternoon, rocking the Senate with its widespread attempts to revamp Florida elections.
Introduced by Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) SPB 7050 is an all-encompassing election package addressing multiple hot-button issues: this includes tightened restrictions on third party voter registration organizations and prohibiting first-time Florida voters with no Florida ID from voting by mail.
“This builds on the work of past sessions by continuing the commitment to security of vote-by-mail ballots, ensuring the accuracy of Florida’s voter polls, and safeguarding voter confidence.” Sen. Burgess summed up.
“In 2022 alone, over 3,000 voter registration applications were collected and submitted late by third party voter registration organizations, which is a violation of the statute.” Burgess continued, explaining the custodial role these organizations take on for potential voters.
The legislation reduces the number of days an organization has to submit the voter’s application, and more than doubles penalties from $1000 to $2500 for late violations. Similarly, voter organization workers face third degree felony charges for retaining any personal information about the voter.
“ANOTHER VOTING SUPPRESSION BILL”
Floridians voiced their opposition to the proposed bill, claiming the bill’s true intent is not to increase transparency between voters and organizations, but to suppress voting.
“Florida has repeatedly sought to make voting tougher for black voters because of their propensity to favor Democratic candidates,” Jasmine Burney-Clark, a member of a Black-led voting rights organization, stated. She referenced a 2022 ruling by Judge Mark Walker. “Here we are in 2023, and Florida is introducing another voter suppression bill.”
“If this bill was so benign we would have seen it earlier.” Sen. Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) echoed, referring to the bill’s language not being revealed until 24 hours before committee. “With regard to third party voter organizations, each year we’ve made it harder and harder for them to operate, and they do help people in lower income groups. I don’t want to do anything to hurt them, and I’m disappointed and embarrassed by this process.”
“FLORIDA IS THE GOLD STANDARD FOR ELECTIONS”
Sen. Burgess disagreed: “Florida is the gold standard for elections and we should be proud, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be proactive.”
He continued, addressing the voter suppression allegation thrown at SPB 7050: “Never would I ever bring forward a piece of legislation that would even remotely come close to touching that level of an accusation. To me, it sounds like some are arguing against the bill they feared it would be, and not the bill that is actually before us.”
SPB 7050 passed down party lines, and will continue on in the Senate. It has yet to be announced which committee it will travel to next.
If adopted, it will go into effect July 1.