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Gov. Ron DeSantis signs restrictive new voting law in Florida

Voters drop off mail ballots for the 2020 presidential election at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Fla., on October 30, 2020. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Voters drop off mail ballots for the 2020 presidential election at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Fla., on October 30, 2020. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

May 6 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a controversial new law Thursday that state Republicans say increases election security -- while opponents say it's just another bill designed to make it harder for millions of voters to participate in the democratic process.

The Republican governor signed the bill during a political rally in West Palm Beach. Florida's Legislature passed the bill last week.

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"Florida took action this legislative session to increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections," DeSantis said in a statement.

"Floridians can rest assured that our state will remain a leader in ballot integrity. Elections should be free and fair and these changes will ensure this continues to be the case in the Sunshine State."

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Under the new law, Florida residents must now produce a driver's license number, state ID number or part of their Social Security number to receive a mail ballot. It also limits ballot drop boxes to early voting days and hours unless it's at the supervisor's office and manned while in use.

Florida joins Georgia in setting new laws this year aimed at restricting voting measures. Critics say it's a response to former President Donald Trump's loss to President Joe Biden last fall, which was fueled by a large swell of mail voting nationwide that favored Biden.

As a result, Georgia has faced significant economic backlash to the law.

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A list of progressive groups have fought against the law and announced plans to file lawsuits, including one by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matters Fund and Florida Alliance for Retired Americans.

"The legislation has a deliberate and disproportionate impact on elderly voters, voters with disabilities, students and communities of color," said Patricia Brigham, president of the LWVF. It's a despicable attempt by a one party ruled legislature to choose who can vote in our state and who cannot. It's undemocratic, unconstitutional, and un-American."

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund also filed a federal lawsuit, with assistant counsel Zachery Morris accusing the Florida Legislature of erecting hurdles for disabled, Black and Latino voters.

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And the League of United Latin American Citizens said it plans to sue and ask the Department of Justice to investigate the Republican sponsors of the law for violating the civil and criminal laws.

"It is very clear to any reasonable person that Florida's Republican-controlled State Senate has passed a series of unconstitutional measures," the league's national president, Domingo Garcia, said.

"Gov. DeSantis paid homage to Donald Trump by signing Florida's new election law disguised as a response to false claims by Republicans that November's election was rigged," Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., said in a statement. "In reality, this is part of a nationwide effort by Republicans to suppress the votes of Black Americans."

Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., announced earlier this week that he hopes to deny DeSantis re-election next year. Crist was Florida's governor between 2007 and 2011.

Meanwhile, local media outlets said all but Fox News was blocked out from covering DeSantis' signing ceremony Thursday, according to CNBC.

"News media is barred from entry at Gov. Ron DeSantis' signing of controversial elections bill, SB 90. DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske says bill signing is a 'Fox exclusive,'" Florida Sun Sentinel columnist Steve Bousquet tweeted.

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