A look at the changes in Florida’s election laws

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a 48-page elections bill Thursday that, despite boasts of a flawless 2020 election, creates many significant changes in the state’s election laws. Republicans say it’s to safeguard against fraud and vote harvesting, while Democrats and voting rights advocates said it’s an attempt to make it more difficult for some people to vote. Here are some of the changes:

—Prohibits people who would help others drop off vote-by-mail ballots from possessing more than two vote-by-mail ballots other than their own, unless they belong to immediate family members. This would apply at sites that include voting stations at assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

—Requires elections supervisors to assign an employee to monitor ballot drop boxes and creates a $25,000 penalty if they fail to do so. Only allows drop boxes to be accessible at the same time as early voting hours, meaning voters can’t use drop boxes after hours.

— Requires a driver license number, state ID number or last four digits of a Social Security number to request a vote by mail ballot.

— Requires voters provide, in addition to their date of birth which was previous practice, the last four digits of their Social Security number or their driver license or state ID card number to make an address change.

— Only allows a request for a vote-by-mail ballot to be good for the next general election rather than two general election cycles.

— Asks people registering to vote affirm to the following language: “I affirm that I am not a convicted felon or, if I am, my right to vote has been restored.”

— Requires third-party voter registration groups to inform people they can also register online and sets tighter deadlines for when registration cards must be turned in.

— Requires any candidate running with no party affiliation to affirm they have not been registered with a political party in the previous 365 days.

— Requires elections officials to make sure their online voter registration system can handle a large influx of traffic immediately before registration deadlines, and also requires that they take proper security precautions to prevent hacking.

— Requires the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to help the Department of State in identifying changes in residence address on a driver license or identification card. The Department of State must report each such to the appropriate supervisor of elections.

— Requires local election officials to provide live Election Day turnout data to the state Division of Elections at least every hour, and requires the division to post the data on its website.

— Increases from 100 feet to 150 the area around a polling place in which people can approach voters to influence their decision.

— Gives observers the right to watch the duplication of a damaged ballot and to challenge the duplication.

— Grants candidates, political parties, political committees or their designees the right to view voting materials such as vote by mail envelopes before votes are tabulated.

— Places prohibitions on government officials settling lawsuits that challenge the result of an election.

— Bans state and local elections officials from soliciting, accepting or using donation in the form of money, grants, property or personal services from an individual or a nongovernmental entity for the paying for election expenses or voter education, voter outreach or registration programs.