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New voting laws to be tested

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 4:35 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Beginning with a primary in the St. Petersburg mayoral race next week, Florida will hold 82 municipal elections before the end of the year, and voting rights activists are worried recent changes to Florida’s election laws will make it more difficult for some to vote. The activists are pinning their hopes on national legislation.

Before the end of the year, 29 counties will hold 82 local elections. One of the biggest and most important will be the mayoral race in St. Petersburg, which has a primary next week.

“We didn’t need barriers to accessing drop boxes,” said State Representative Fentrice Driskell.

Activists say this year’s changes could make voting harder.

“St. Pete has a very large African American population, I just want to make sure they have been well educated in what these changes are going to mean for them,” said Driskell.

All Voting is Local is pushing Federal legislation to override Senate Bill 90.

“I mean, that’s why we need these national protections in place. Allowing people to register the day of the election,” said Brad Ashwell with All Voting is Local.

But the sponsor of the voting legislation, State Senator Dennis Baxley, argued opening registration to Election Day would create problems, not fix them.

“When you’ve got people registering in the middle of voting, that’s how you get mishaps,” said Baxley.

During the Zoom, a former Congresswoman said that GOP lawmakers nationwide had introduced over 400 election bills. She suggested a conspiracy. Sponsor Baxley answered the question this way.

“Well, that’s one I haven’t heard, so I hardly know how to respond. I had no trouble putting one bill together,” said Baxley.

The biggest test of SB 90 will come in November when Broward County will hold a special congressional election. The outcome will either fuel the efforts to change the law or perhaps prove the Florida Legislature right. A federal lawsuit seeking to have this year’s election law changes declared unconstitutional is pending.