Florida Bill to Eliminate Voter Drop Boxes to Be Debated by Legislature

A Florida bill to eliminate voter drop boxes in the state will soon be debated by the Legislature after it was approved by a Senate committee on Wednesday.

The state's Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee approved the proposal in a 4-2 vote along party lines, with Republicans in favor. The bill was previously proposed by Republican state Senator Dennis Baxley, who serves as the chair of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.

In addition to fully eliminating mail-in ballot drop boxes in the state, the bill will require residents to renew their mail-in ballot requests annually, instead of the requests being valid through two general elections. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, roughly 6 million residents who received mail ballots last year won't automatically receive mail ballots for the state's 2022 elections.

The approval of the bill by the Senate committee sparked a backlash across the state from members of both parties.

"We are against this bill, vehemently," said Mark Earley, Leon County's Democratic supervisor of elections, according to the Sun Sentinel. "This bill appears to be setting us up for another 2012, when we had long lines, chaos and confusion."

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Lake County elections chief Alan Hays, a Republican, called the bill a "travesty."

Despite the criticism, Baxley defended the bill, while noting that the most recent election was conducted with "very high credibility."

"We had an excellent, excellent conducted election and very high credibility, and now we're looking at each juncture and saying, 'What do we do to reassure the future?'" Baxley told the Orlando Sentinel when asked if there was any fraud involving drop boxes. "We've put the guardrails on the highway so that no one runs off. We had a great journey what can we do to improve the election security."

Newsweek reached out to Baxley for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

State Senator Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, a member of the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, said that the bill "is not going to restrict" but instead will "protect the integrity of the system."

The decision by the Senate committee to pass the bill comes as part of a nationwide GOP-led effort to change voting laws.

According to Politico, 44 percent of Florida residents voted with mail-in ballots during the 2020 election. Previously, Republicans were more likely to vote by mail, but during November's election more than 2.18 million Democrats cast ballots by mail, compared with 1.5 million Republican voters in the state.

Before the election, former President Donald Trump criticized mail-in voting and the use of ballot drop boxes.

Drop Box
A poll worker helps a voter as she drops off her mail-in ballot at drive-thru drop box at the Miami-Dade County Election Department in Florida on November 3, 2020. Chandan Khanna/Getty

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has supported changes to voting methods, even though the state did not have voting problems during the 2020 election.

"Last November, Florida held the smoothest, most successful election of any state in the country," DeSantis said in a statement in February. "While we should celebrate this feat, we should not rest on our laurels. Today, we are taking actions to ensure Florida remains a leader on key issues regarding our electoral process, such as ballot integrity, public access to the election information, transparency of election reporting, and more."