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New bill would ban ballot drop boxes in Florida, and add new voting restrictions

Posted at 8:25 PM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 20:25:22-05

COLLIER COUNTY — Ballot drop boxes could become a thing of the past in Florida.

A new bill in the state legislature is trying to get rid of them, in addition to adding other voting restrictions.

We spoke with the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office about the issue, which saw the highest voter turnout in Florida for the 2020 Presidential Election. The office said a lot of that had to do with the drop boxes.

Spokeswoman Trish Robertson said people dropped off more than 44,000 ballots last election cycle.

"That’s almost 50% of the total amount of voting by mail ballots that were actually dropped off, and I know that drop boxes played a huge role in that," said Robertson.

But the sponsor of Senate Bill 90, State Senator Dennis Baxley, argues getting rid of the boxes would actually make it easier to vote.

"The easiest thing you can do is drop it in the mail, not go find a box," said Baxley in a hearing of the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee on Wednesday.

The League of Women Voters of Florida said Senator Baxley would be making it harder to vote, not easier.

"There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for this. This is absolutely voter suppression," said League Patricia Brigham.

Brigham said taking away drop boxes would take away options from voters. The bill also requires voters to re-apply for mail-in voting status every four years. Right now, voters only have to re-apply every eight years, and that change is something else Brigham opposes.

"A lot of registered voters are not going to know this. So that means that the Supervisors are going to have to invest in a massive education campaign to let voters know," said Brigham.

According to the Lake County Supervisor of Elections, Alan Hays, who spoke at the committee meeting Wednesday, that investment could be as much as $16 million statewide.

But at the meeting, State Sen. Baxley argued it gives voters a choice.

"You can vote by mail, and you can decide every year. You're not locked in to stay in or stay out," said Baxley.

Robertson said, with how successful the last election was, she hopes the state doesn’t tinker with the law.

"Our office subscribes to making voting easy and accessible to voters. We also subscribe to having controls in place to prevent fraud, and I think drop boxes do both of those measures," said Robertson.

The bill was approved in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee Wednesday, and it will be heard by the Rules Committee next.