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Florida lawmakers pass GOP-backed voting restrictions bill, send to Gov. DeSantis

In a 77-40 vote, state Representatives passed an amended bill that makes changes to the state's vote-by-mail system, among other things.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — After hours of debate on a slew of amendments in both the House and Senate, Florida lawmakers on Thursday passed a piece of GOP-backed legislation that would place new limits on ballot drop boxes, among other things.

Critics of the bill have called the measure a piece of voter suppression. Democratic lawmakers have said SB 90 would make it harder for seniors, people of color, and individuals with disabilities to vote.

House Democrats were united in opposition to the bill, but it passed on a 77-40 House vote. It now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk for his signature.

If signed into law, the bill would change the state's vote-by-mail system. Some of those changes include restricting drop box use to a county's early voting hours rather than allowing ballots to be dropped off 24/7, making in-person monitoring of all drop box locations mandatory as well as a whole host of other security measures for vote-by-mail. Voters would also be required to submit vote-by-mail requests every election cycle instead of every two cycles.

Another change would expand the no-solicitation zone around polling places to 150 feet. That means no one within that distance could attempt to solicit votes or distribute items like water. 

More changes to the state's voting laws include a new uniform statewide voter registration application that would highlight whether an applicant has been convicted of a felony and has had their voting rights restored. And, signature verification for voters, meaning voters must have a "wet signature" that they physically signed on paper on file. 

Senators who've pushed back against the bill questioned why changes needed to be made if Florida's own governor touted the security of the state's last election. Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis called Florida's elections the "most transparent and efficient election anywhere in the country." 

Still, the governor was in favor of making changes to voting rules, saying the state couldn't "rest on our laurels."

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis proposes new election restriction measures

In a previous statement, ACLU of Florida Legislative Director Kara Gross said Florida senators had just voted against their constituents' fundamental rights to vote:

"Nothing about Florida’s elections has shown a need for this law," Gross' statement read. "In fact, legislators should be encouraged that Floridians turned out in record numbers to participate in their democracy. It should prompt our legislators to seek ways to improve voter access by streamlining voter signature-matching procedures and ensuring uniformity across all counties, or encouraging more equitable polling places."

Now that the bill is passed, it is now up to Gov. DeSantis to sign it into law. If signed by the governor, the new law would take effect July 1.

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