Politics Republicans continue their nationwide campaign to restrict voting
Voting: Florida Legislature passes elections bill that adds restrictions
One signature now stands between Florida voters and a slew of new restrictions on casting ballots in the Sunshine State. © Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images A view of the Florida State Capitol on November 10, 2018, in Tallahassee. After days of contentious debate and last-minute amendments bouncing between chambers, the Republican-controlled state House and Senate came to an agreement and party-line votes approved Senate Bill 90 on the eve of Florida's final day of the legislative session. If signed by Republican Gov.
Republicans in key states intensified their push to roll back access to the ballot this week -- with the GOP-led Texas House advancing new voting limits early Friday, a day after Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law an array of new restrictions in his state.
Republicans in the Texas House pushed pastsuch as American Airlines and Microsoft, and fierce protests from Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates.
Now Florida Republicans worry their new voting restrictions may backfire and hurt GOP turnout
Florida Republicans spent decades making mail voting easier — before Trump spread lies about the election Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists and world leaders to discuss issues important to them.
The 81-64 vote came after often-heated debate on the floor of the Texas House with Democratic lawmakers pressing the bill's author, GOP Rep. Briscoe Cain, to cite examples of the election fraud the bill sought to prevent.
"We don't need to wait for bad things to happen" to take action, Cain responded at one point.
The vote moves Texas closer to joining a host of other states racing to change the ground rules for future elections, following former President Donald Trump's repeated and unfounded claims that voter fraud contributed to his loss last November. Around the country, Republicans have cast their effort as needed to restore voter confidence in the integrity of elections. But critics say the nationwide push aims to retain GOP power in key battlegrounds by making it harder for people of color and younger voters to cast their ballots.
Despite business warnings, GOP moves ahead with voting bills
Republican lawmakers around the country are pressing ahead with efforts to tighten voting laws, despite growing warnings from business leaders that the measures could harm democracy and the economic climate. © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this April 21, 2021, file photo, people opposed to Texas voter bills HB6 and SB7 hold signs during a news conference hosted by Texas Rising Action on the steps of the State Capitol in Austin, Texas.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
"Most of these changes are unnecessary to make voting more efficient or to prevent fraud, which is quite rare in our elections," said Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California at Irvine. "These measures are political and are being passed on a partisan basis for partisan reasons."
The Texas measure, which requires a third reading before it is sent back to the Texas Senate, would empower partisan poll watchers, increase penalties for voting crimes and bar counties from sending unsolicited applications to vote by mail. It included Democratic amendments, including one that would allow election officials to call the police to remove disruptive partisan poll watchers.
"Under the cover of darkness, the Texas House just passed one of the worst anti-voting bills in the county," Sarah Labowitz, policy and advocacy director of the ACLU of Texas, said after lawmakers voted to advance the bill in the early morning hours Friday. "SB7 will target votes of color, voters with disabilities and the civil servants who run our elections."
GOP-backed voting restrictions like Florida's will appease Trump more than they'll help Republicans win elections
For years, Republicans dominated mail voting in Florida. After Trump waged war on the practice, the state GOP passed new limits on it.Between Fox News scoring an exclusive for the signing and the effusive praise from the "Fox & Friends'" hosts for DeSantis, the event was clearly made-for-Trump television.
A separate measure approved previously by the Texas Senate is more expansive. It would allow poll watchers to videotape people receiving assistance to vote and would ban drive-thru voting and other measures employed in urban areas in 2020 that made it easier to vote in the pandemic.
Those provisions still could make into the final law.
In Florida, DeSantis said the new law would "increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections." Its critics, such as NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, called it a "horrifying reminder" of democracy's "fragility."
The law brings sweeping changes to Florida's election rules, such as imposing new identification requirements to request vote-by-mail ballots or to change an address. It also limits the location and hours of ballot drop boxes and requires election workers to monitor boxes. Election supervisors face a $25,000 fine for the failure to do so.
Texas and Florida -- both populous and diverse states -- are just the latest Republican-led states to move forward with voting restrictions.
Texas House OK's Republican-backed voting bill in key vote
The bill could undergo more changes. Governor Greg Abbott has said he supports "election integrity" efforts. Texas is one of several GOP-controlled states passing similar, sweeping bills.Debate on the bill began around 6:00 p.m. central time, but just a couple of hours later, Democrats filed a procedural challenge that halted debate for hours. During that time, lawmakers hashed out amendments to address some of the concerns Democrats and voting rights organizations had raised.
Georgia and Iowa already have passed far-reaching election restrictions. Montana hasvoter ID requirements and ended same-day voter registration. Bills to tighten voting rules also are advancing in the battleground state of Michigan.
And this week, the Republican majority in the Kansas legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's vetoes of controversial election bills. As a result, it's now a misdemeanor for someone in Kansas to collect and return more than 10 ballots -- which opponents say will hamper efforts by churches and other organizations to help the elderly and disabled vote.
Meanwhile, legislation introduced Thursday by Republicans in the Ohio House would significantly revise election laws there. Among other things, the GOP package co-authored by Republican state Rep. Bill Seitz would tighten voter ID requirements, eliminate a day of early voting and limit drop box locations to local election offices.
Asked about the moves in Texas and Florida, White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said, "The President's view -- the fact of the matter is that these laws make it harder to vote. That's not a good thing."
She said Biden will leave it up to the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland to make any decisions about whether to intervene in states implementing restrictive voting measures.
Texas Was Already One of the Hardest States to Vote in. It May Get Even Harder
The Texas House of Representatives approved a spate of new voting restrictions Friday that would ban election officials from sending out ballot applications to voters unless they specifically requested one and grant more power to partisan poll watchers. The measure, which Democrats, corporations, and voting rights advocates have said impinges on Texans’ right to vote, will soon return to the Republican-controlled Senate and could still undergo significant changes. Republican Governor Greg Abbott has broadly expressed support for the bill.
In Arizona -- a state Biden narrowly won last November -- ademanded by Republican state senators of the 2020 ballots cast in Maricopa County is underway. Two previous audits by county elections officials found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. The state's results have long been certified.
This week, the head of the US Department of Justice's civil rights divisionto the president of the Arizona Senate, suggesting that the recount by a private contractor of some 2.1 million ballots could violate federal law that requires state and local officials to maintain ballots and election materials for 22 months.
Justice Department official Pamela Karlan also warned that the plan by the recount contractor, Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, to knock on voters' doors to confirm their addresses could violate federal laws banning voter intimidation.
Ken Bennett, the former Republican secretary of state who is acting as the liaison between the private contractor and Senate Republicans, said there's no plan to intimidate voters. "If somebody knocks on your door and you don't want to answer their questions, you don't have to," he said.
Senate Republicans in Arizona show no signs of retreat. One state lawmaker, Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers,k: " 'Justice' Department - you need to stay in your lane. Do not touch Arizona ballots or machines unless you want to spend time in an Arizona prison."
Trump has cheered on the recount effort.
On Thursday, Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican and vocal Trump ally, said she "fully" supported the privately conducted audit in Arizona. Stefanik isto replace Rep. Liz Cheney in US House Republican leadership following Cheney's public repudiation of Trump's election lies.
"When you talk to any voter across this country, certainly at any Republican event, they are focused on election security and election integrity," Stefanik said during an appearance on Steve Bannon's show this week.
"It is important to stand up for these constitutional issues and these are questions that are going to have to be answered before we head into the 2022 midterms so that the American people have faith in our election system," she added.
Voter suppression: A short history of the long conservative assault on Black voting power .
This past March, John Kavanagh, a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives, insisted that his antidemocratic position on voting rights was about election security. © William Lovelace/Hulton Archive/Getty Images African-American civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968, centre) listening to a transistor radio in the front line of the third march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to campaign for proper registration of black voters, 23rd March 1965.