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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Republicans advance proposed changes to Florida's elections laws

Members of the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee discuss a 98-page elections bill that was filed the day before the committee meeting on Wednesday, April 5, 2023.
Valerie Crowder
/
WFSU News
Members of the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee discuss a 98-page elections bill that was filed the day before the committee meeting on Wednesday, April 5, 2023.

A 98-page elections bill that was filed a day before getting its first committee hearing cleared the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Wednesday.

A massive elections bill that would place further restrictions on voter registration groups has passed its first committee in the Florida Senate.

"This proposed bill builds on the work of past sessions," said Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chair Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills).

The legislation would place more regulations on voter registration organizations. It would also put in place new requirements for voter roll maintenance, and would create a new criminal penalty for threatening, harassing or intimidating poll workers.

“These are measured changes,” Burgess said. “They make sense.”

The measure passed (6-3) along party lines.

It contains several proposed changes to how voter registration groups may operate. The legislation would require those organizations to register with the state every general election cycle.

It would also shorten the amount of time that voter registration groups have to return completed registration forms to local elections offices, and it would increase fines for late returns.

State Sen. Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) explained she voted against the legislation partly because it would impede voter registration groups' efforts. “Each year, we’ve made it harder and harder for them to operate, and they do help people in lower-income groups and out there in the communities.”

The 98-page bill was filed about 24 hours before it got its first committee vote. “The citizens did not have enough time to review an almost a hundred page bill," Florida League of Women Voters' President Cecile Scoon explained to the committee.

The League, which is a nonpartisan organization that works to educate and register voters, also takes issue with the proposed restrictions on voter registration groups. "It does seem extremely punitive," Scoon told the committee.

State Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chair Danny Burgess suggested to reporters that changes could still be made to the bill, though it's unclear where the bill is headed next.

"This is a process, and the bill does not become law today.”

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.
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