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Mail Ballot Changes on Legislative Agenda

February 17th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Statewide, Republicans have regularly outpaced Democrats in mail in voting, until 2020, when Democrats took a 600,000 vote lead.

Now, with the 2022 cycle just beginning some GOP lawmakers are trying to cancel out ongoing mail ballot requests in place for the upcoming cycle.

Governor Ron DeSantis won by fewer than 33,000 votes in 2018, when the GOP had a 54,000 mail in ballot advantage.

But in 2020, Democrats returned 680,000 more mail ballots than Republicans.

“A lot of these don’t get address changes. They are still getting delivered. They are out there, they are like blank checks,” said State Senator Dennis Baxley.

Voters who checked the box when they returned their ballot believed they were making a continuing request, but legislation now moving through committee would throw out all those requests.

“I think to hear from them year to year; how they want to vote this year, is the way to do it,” said Baxley, who is sponsoring the bill.

Tina Polsky voted no in the bill’s first committee.

“There’s not other way to interpret it. It’s a partisan attempt to restrict or make more difficult for Democrats to sign up for mail in ballots,” said Polsky.

If someone were to make a request for a mail ballot in Florida today, current law would allow them to automatically receive a ballot up through the 2024 election.

Elections Supervisors Association Vice President Mark Earley believes the change isn’t needed

“I think we’ve got great safeguards in place, so I don’t think we need any change to the vote by mail requests process,” said Earley.

Under the bill, Supervisors would have to eat the cost of educating voters.

It’s always difficult to educate the public on changes,” said Earley.

But Baxley said the legislation will ensure issues seen in other states in the 2020 election don’t happen here.

“Let’s make sure we have the right precautions,” said Baxley.

One part of the proposed bill is liked by elections supervisors.

It allows them to start counting mail ballots up to forty days before an election.

The Governor gave them that power in an emergency order last year and it’s credited with avoiding counting delays.

The bill has two more Senate Committee stops.

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