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Florida Republican lawmakers passed a 96-page bill that makes multiple changes to state election law.
The bill adds rules for third-party groups that collect voter registration applications and stiff fines if they break the rules.
The bill revises processes supervisors of elections and the state use to keep the voter rolls current.
Former President Donald Trump, facing a likely Republican presidential primary challenge from Gov. Ron DeSantis, said that Florida’s new elections bill is a "total mess."
Trump, a Florida voter, suggested that his beef with the bill isn’t the provision that allows DeSantis to run for president without resigning. Trump said he "couldn’t care less" if DeSantis runs.
But Trump had a lot to say about how the bill "totally weakens" the security of elections
"Instead of getting tough, and doing what the people want (same day voting, Voter ID, proof of Citizenship, paper ballots, hand count, etc.) this Bill guts everything," Trump said April 30 on Truth Social, days after the bill passed both chambers of the Florida Legislature with Republican support. "It will allow dirty Voter rolls to get dirtier, weakens transparency, and is a total mess. It’s simple, all we want is a Free and Fair Election, and an honest count."
DeSantis, who has touted his efforts to detect the rare instances of voter fraud, is expected to sign the 96-page elections bill, S.B. 7050.
Trump’s description of the bill distorts what lawmakers passed and what current state laws say.
Although the bill does not deliver all of what Trump wants, we found no evidence that it removes existing laws that help Florida deliver secure elections. Trump’s post made it sound as if leaders removed protections the state has long had, such as requiring paper ballots and voter ID.
"This does not gut anything at all," said J.C. Planas, a Florida election lawyer and former Republican state legislator, who is now a Democrat.
Florida already has many of the provisions Trump mentioned, and they were unaffected by the new law.
People voting in person must bring a current and valid photo ID with signature, such as a driver’s license.
Floridians requesting a mail ballot also must provide identifying information, such as a driver’s license or last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number.
Floridians use paper ballots when they vote by mail or in person.
Florida’s voter registration form requires people to attest that they are U.S. citizens. It is a crime to lie on the form.
Two changes in the bill, out of about two dozen, have drawn the most attention.
The first revises state law to let officeholders seeking the presidency or vice presidency to keep their job without resigning. Without the law, DeSantis would have had to resign to run for president.
Second, the bill adds several rules for third-party groups that collect voter registration applications. The bill reduces the number of days an organization has to deliver applications, sets late fees that can add up to $250,000 a year, and bans noncitizens and people convicted of certain felonies from handling voter registration applications, imposing $50,000 fines.
The rules for third-party groups have rankled Democrats and Florida groups that support expanding voting rights including the American Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters and Common Cause. Third-party groups register Black and Hispanic voters at higher rates than whites.
The rest of the bill revises processes of supervisors of elections and the Florida Department of State to keep the voter rolls current, clarifies situations in which a provisional ballot must be voted, and makes other administrative changes that affect local election supervisors.
"There is not a drop of truth to (Trump’s) comments about this weakening of Florida's security," Ion Sancho, the former supervisor of elections in Leon County, told PolitiFact.
The bill reduced by two days the amount of time voters have to request a mail ballot, but keeps no-excuse voting by mail available for nearly all Florida voters.
DeSantis’ spokesperson Bryan Griffin said the governor supports the bill because it makes elections more secure. Griffin pointed to penalties for the third-party organizations, a training requirement for elections officials who match signatures on mail ballots and "massive increases in accountability for cleaning up voter rolls."
Current law requires each supervisor to update voter rolls at least once yearly to remove outdated registrations for people who have died or moved.
The new law intends to speed the process for clearing the voter rolls. For example, supervisors would need to coordinate with clerks of court to identify voters convicted of felonies during the preceding week and remove them within seven days.
Sancho raised concerns that the bill shifts more work from state to local officials to find felons on the voter rolls.
Trish Robertson, a spokesperson for the supervisor of elections in Republican-leaning Collier County, also disagreed with Trump’s take that the bill removes protections.
"We are conducting voter eligibility maintenance daily, and our office will also launch our yearly list maintenance activities this week for voters who have had no activity with our office in the last two years," Robertson said.
Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott, a Democrat, told PolitiFact, "There is no way to interpret the bill to say it makes voting less secure."
There are some ironies in Trump’s statement.
Trump has called for same-day voting only, even though he voted by mail in the primaries, and early, in the general election in 2020.
Although Trump wants clean voter rolls, he encouraged Republican governors to drop out of the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nonpartisan partnership among states that shares data to help election officials remove voters who have died or moved. Florida is one of a few GOP-led states that have dropped out, although that wasn’t motivated by Trump’s comments.
Trump’s stance that the new bill "weakens election integrity" overlaps with concerns of Defend Florida, a group of Trump-aligned Floridians that used a flawed methodology in search of "phantom voters" on the voter rolls. Defend Florida called for allowing counties to conduct hand counts, which would pose logistical challenges.
Shasta County, California, a jurisdiction with about 111,000 voters, has been moving toward requiring a hand count. Local election officials predicted that a full hand count would cost $1.6 million and require 1,300 employees. Florida has multiple counties with a higher number of registered voters than Shasta County.
Trump said of the new Florida elections bill that "instead of getting tough, and doing what the people want (same day voting, Voter ID, proof of Citizenship, paper ballots, hand count, etc.) this bill guts everything."
Trump is free to dislike S.B. 7050, a bill that allows DeSantis to challenge Trump in the presidential primary without resigning as governor. But his statement creates the false impression that Florida overhauled its laws and weakened elections oversight. That’s not so. The bill sets tough rules for third-party groups that collect voter registration applications and asks local officials to update voter rolls more frequently.
The package does not eliminate provisions designed to protect voting security, including voter ID. Florida didn’t need to require paper ballots in state law, because it was already there.
We rate this statement False.
RELATED: Donald Trump on the Truth-O-Meter
Florida Senate, SB 7050, April 2023
Florida Division of Elections, Vote by mail, May 25, 2022
Florida Division of Elections Photo and signature identification, Oct. 28, 2022
Florida Division of Elections, About voting systems, Feb. 17, 2023
Common Cause Florida, Press release about SB 7050, April 28, 2023
ACLU of Florida, Press release about SB 7050, April 28, 2023
League of Women Voters of Florida, Press release about SB 7050, April 28, 2023
AP, Bill allows DeSantis to run for president while governor, April 28, 2023
Politico reporter Gary Fineout, Twitter thread, May 1, 2023
Ion Sancho op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel, Florida makes it impossible to check voter eligibility, then pulls out handcuffs, May 1, 2023
Tallahassee Democrat, Bill with 'resign to run' fix heads to DeSantis' desk; Sweeping changes to Fla. election laws in package, May 1, 2023
News Service of Florida, Florida lawmakers refuel fight over elections laws, April 20, 2023
News Service of Florida, Florida lawmakers pass elections bill, setting up change to the ‘resign-to-run’ law, April 28, 2023
News Service of Florida, Florida legislators refuel fight over elections laws, April 21, 2023
AP, Bill allows DeSantis to run for president while governor, April 28, 2023
Defend Florida, Summary of Concerns on SB 7050, 2023
ABC7, Letter from Shasta County Elections office to Board of Supervisors, March 28, 2023
University of Florida political scientist Daniel A. Smith, Expert Report Submitted on Behalf of Florida State Conference of NAACP v. Lee, 4:21-cv-187-MW-MAF, and Florida Rising Together v. Lee, 4:21-cv-201-MW-MJF, Sept. 1, 2021
The 2022 Florida Statutes (including 2022 Special Session A and 2023 Special Session B), 98.075 Registration records maintenance activities; ineligibility determinations
Telephone interview, Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott, May 1, 2023
Telephone interview, J.C. Planas, election lawyer, May 1, 2023
Telephone interview, Ion Sancho, former Leon County Supervisor of Elections, May 1, 2023
Email interview, Bryan Griffin, Gov. Ron DeSantis spokesperson, May 1, 2023
Email interview, Trish Robertson, spokesperson for the Collier County Supervisor of Elections, May 1, 2023
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