Politico

Florida may ban drop boxes used for mail-in ballots


Florida could ban voting drop boxes just months after an election where they proved immensely popular with voters amid the pandemic.

Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), the chair of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, on Tuesday released a revamped elections proposal that would completely ban drop boxes for ballots. It will be considered by a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Baxley contended that he was pushing for the change due to concerns “due to a real security concern” and that boxes were being left unsupervised.

“I just want to maintain that chain of evidence from the time they vote to the time until they get counted so we don’t have a mishap,” said Baxley, who could not name any specific incidents that sparked the legislation.

Baxley added “you can mail it or bring it to the office. That’s it.”

But the move immediately drew fire from local election supervisors.

“I’m at a loss for words,” said Pasco County Supervisor of Election Brian Corley, a Republican. “It’s a solution looking for a problem.”

Background: Florida’s Republican-led Legislature has steadily made it easier to vote by mail over the last 20 years. But the extensive use of vote-by-mail in 2020 came under constant fire from then-President Donald Trump, who made unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud.

Due in part to the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly 44 percent of all Florida voters cast ballots by mail during the 2020 elections. Democrats, who have traditionally trailed Republicans in using mail-in ballots, swamped Republicans this time around. More than 2.18 million Democrats used mail-in ballots compared to 1.5 million Republican voters.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, echoing some of the criticisms against mail-in voting of Trump, called last month for a crackdown of some of the state’s voting laws. He called for placing limits on drop boxes and stopping volunteers from being able to gather and deliver mail-in ballots.

Baxley initially filed a bill (FL SB90 21 R) that would force all voters to resubmit vote-by-mail requests for the 2022 elections while at the same time limiting the duration of future requests. The legislation cleared its first committee by a narrow party line vote. The bill could be expanded on Wednesday to include the drop box ban and a crackdown on who can pick up mail-in ballots. Voting legislation is expected to be released in the House in the next two weeks.

Disagreements: State legislators authorized the use of voting drop boxes after a push by local election supervisors, including the former Republican supervisor of Pinellas County.

Brad McVay, the general counsel for Secretary of State Laurel Lee, sent out a memo to election supervisors in mid-October stating that all drop boxes had to be continually monitored by a law enforcement officer or election office employees.

Some counties maintained the law wasn’t that specific and set up drop boxes that were available 24 hours a day but were only monitored by video.

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican who helped craft the drop box law, insisted that counties weren’t following it as legislators intended. He said lawmakers agreed to make drop boxes easier to use but in a “safe and efficient way.”

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