Republicans in the Florida Legislature passed an election overhaul bill on Thursday that is set to usher in a host of voting restrictions in one of the most critical battleground states in the country, adding to the national push by G.O.P. state lawmakers to reduce voting access.
The bill makes Florida the first major swing state won by former President Donald J. Trump to pass significant voting limits and reflects Republicans’ determination to reshape electoral systems even in states where they have been ascendant. Mr. Trump carried the state last year by more than three percentage points, other Republicans also performed strongly, and the party raised new hopes of its ability to appeal to Latino voters.
But Republicans in Florida argued that its elections needed to be more secure, despite the fact that voting unfolded smoothly in 2020 and arguments by Democrats and voting rights experts that some of the new measures would disproportionately affect voters of color. Now the state is on the verge of weakening key parts of an extensive voting infrastructure that was slowly constructed after the state’s chaotic 2000 election and was rapidly enlarged last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new bill would limit the use of drop boxes; add more identification requirements for those requesting absentee ballots; require voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, rather than receive them automatically through an absentee voting list; limit who could collect and drop off ballots; and further empower partisan observers during the ballot-counting process. The legislation would also expand a current rule that prohibits outside groups from providing items “with the intent to influence” voters within a 150-foot radius of a polling location.