With Senate bill near adoption, House proposal to restrict vote-by-mail emerges

By John Haughey
The Center Square
March 24, 2021

With a Senate bill proposing restrictions to the state’s vote-by-mail rules one step away from a chamber vote, the House introduced its own similar, but not exact, reform measure Monday.

Unlike Senate Bill 90, which has one hearing before introduction onto the floor, the committee bill approved by the House Public Integrity & Elections Committee Monday in an 11-6 partisan does not ban ballot boxes.

The bill, PCB PIE 21-05, will be numbered and carried by Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, who said despite more than 4.85 million Floridians casting vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots in November, lawmakers have been reviewing ballot security, accessibility and transparency issues since 2019 and this is part of that sustained effort.

“We should never rest on our laurels and we should never pass up an opportunity to make a good thing even better,” he said.

Democrats and many advocacy groups have mounted a furious campaign against the proposal and threatened legal action if the Republican-controlled Legislature follows through with VBM “reform” measures first outlined by Gov. Ron DeSantis and incorporated into SB 90, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake.

Like SB 90, PCB PIE 21-05 requires voters sign-up to receive VBM ballots at least once every two-year election cycle rather than once every four years and allows only immediate family to pick-up and drop-off ballots on their behalf.

“Once we go to two election cycles, what we’re doing is a perverse disincentive for people to engage in the political process,” Ingoglia said. “I believe moving it to one election cycle will keep the supervisor of elections office engaged with voters, voters engaged with the supervisor of elections office and we’ll have better elections.”

Unlike SB 90, the House bill allows ballot drop boxes at county supervisor of elections offices but requires they must be monitored by office employees or law-enforcement officers during regular working hours. After hours, boxes can be monitored by video.

Drop boxes outside county offices would only be allowed in early-voting periods during business hours and must monitored by elections workers or law-enforcement officers, under PCB PIE 21-05.

According to a survey sent to the state’s 67 county elections offices, about 10,000 ballots from 54 counties – .09% of the total ballots received – had missing or mismatched signatures. An Associated Press analysis indicated the VBM rejection rate was just below 0.3 percent in November, down from 1.3 percent in August’s primary.

Democrat Reps. Allison Tant, Tallahassee, and Tracie Davis, Jacksonville, argued the measure would make it harder for isolated seniors or those in nursing homes to vote, create long lines to vote and is blatant voter suppression.

He’d consider exemptions for those overly burdened, Ingoglia said, but otherwise waved-off Democrats’ criticism.

“I sort of discount when I hear that word, ‘voter suppression,’” he said. “I don’t think it’s voter suppression because, at the end of the day, especially when it comes to vote-by-mail, all somebody has to do is put a stamp on it and mail it back. And you could just basically walk to your mail box, put the flag up, and mail it back.”

Democrats ridiculed Republicans’ concern for elections security but silence in the wake of last week’s arrest of former GOP Sen. Frank Artiles for “real voter fraud.”

Ingoglia, a former state GOP committee chair, said Artiles’ situation won’t be used by Democrats “as an excuse to do carte blanche, whatever they want to regarding drop boxes.”

He also dismissed opposition by county elections supervisors who say the proposed rules are unnecessary and costly.

“If we’re being overly prescriptive on it, it’s because (elections supervisors) were being overly flippant on how they were being administered in the last election,” Ingoglia said.


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Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_60665)
2 years ago

Florida’s voting system works. Leave it alone, but I bet today’s version of the Florida GOP tries it’s usual last second, smoke and mirrors legislative blitz to corrupt it.

Mark Tomes
Noble Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
2 years ago

What a slap in the face to the hard-working election supervisors to say they were “overly flippant” in the last election. When Republicans win, they say the election was fair; when they lose, it was stolen. Rank and file Republicans should be ashamed of their leaders’ attempts to suppress voting. Why don’t they go after Artiles, the Republican who really stole an election?

LuAnn Dawson
LuAnn Dawson (@guest_60672)
2 years ago

Once again commentators of an article are attacking a party and not the process. Mail in ballots, requested by registered voters is not the problem. The problems arise from ballot harvesting and mass mailing to an address instead of a registered voter. As to Fernandina Beach mailing referendum ballots, I find them illegal and will refuse to participate. The city does what it wants without regard to the will of the people.

Susan Steger
Susan Steger(@co-editor-2)
2 years ago
Reply to  LuAnn Dawson

LuAnn, the city is not in charge of elections.

DAVID LOTT(@dave-l)
2 years ago
Reply to  LuAnn Dawson

I agree that the mass mailing of ballots creates an opportunity for fraud. With requested absentee balloting, early voting and day of voting, there are plenty of convenient opportunities for an individual to cast their ballot. The charges that prohibiting mass mailing of ballots is political theater.

LuAnn, if I read the Nassau County Supervisor of Elections article in the News-Leader correctly, you still have the ability to go cast your vote on the City Referendum items on a machine at the SoE office or hand-deliver your ballot.

I am not one of those that believe that the presidential election was “stolen” as I do not believe there was a sufficient level of fraud to change the results. But anyone who says there was zero fraud has their head in the sand. The most blatant example is the 1997 Miami mayoral election where there were thirty-six people arrested for absentee ballot fraud and the impact was so great that the election had to be re-run with a different candidate emerging as the victor. The stories of voter fraud in Chicago under Richard Daley with dead people casting ballots have been around for decades.

Eliminating opportunities for fraud by eliminating mass mailing of ballots and requiring identification serves to further the legitimacy of the election results.

Teri D. Springer
Teri D. Springer (@guest_60678)
2 years ago
Reply to  DAVID LOTT

Chicago election fraud was 40+ years ago. Amazingly, it’s neither prevalent or easy to commit voter fraud in this decade. And those ballots cast by “dead” people in Chicago….none of them were cast by mail.

But I do agree…mass mailing of applications is a bad idea. I know of no place where actual ballots have been mailed out that were not specifically requested. I know I am asked every time I receive an absentee ballot if I want to continue to receive them.

Tim Walker
Tim Walker (@guest_60677)
2 years ago

Dems just looking for an easy way the cheat as they do and will here. To confuse voter suppression with having fair accurate elections is just another bunch of liberal BS. And Suanne, you are just a clueless partisan hack out of touch with your community and reality.

Teri D. Springer
Teri D. Springer (@guest_60679)
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Walker

Cheating is denying legitimate citizens the right to vote despite the Constitution and amendments guaranteeing that right. If you want to discuss election fraud, the bigger problem is gerrymandering and limiting access to voting…..something the GOP is doing with glee.

Bob Tankel
Bob Tankel (@guest_60681)
2 years ago

President Trump votes by mail. This is an expensive boondoggle that none of the 67 Supervisors of Election support.