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Florida Legislature Passes Bill Limiting Access to Ballots By Reuters

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© Reuters. 2020 U.S. Presidential Election in Florida

(Reuters) – Florida’s legislature passed a bill on Thursday making it difficult to access mailboxes and ballots by mail, the latest Republican-led state to push for what activists say is voter suppression.

Republicans cite former President Donald Trump’s claims that President Joe Biden stole the November election as reasons for the broad measures. The judges discredited such claims, made without evidence, in more than 60 lawsuits that failed to overturn the election result.

Democrats say the Republican measures are designed to lessen the impact of black voters, whose large turnout helped propel Biden to victory and gave Democrats two US Senate victories in Georgia in January. Georgia passed major new voting restrictions in March.

The bill in neighboring Florida, also a political battlefield, includes stricter requirements on mailbox personnel and requires voters to request mail-in ballots more frequently.

The bill also provides for an expansion of the “no solicitation” area around polling places and broadens the definition of solicitations to include “the giving, or attempting to give, any item to a voter by certain persons.” Human rights groups warn that this will deter activists from handing out food and water to voters who stand in long lines in an often suffocating state.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill.

Marc Elias, a Democratic attorney representing a coalition of civil rights groups suing Georgia over its voting restrictions, tweeted that the Florida business community should have opposed the bill.

“These voter suppression laws are aimed at black, brown and young voters,” Elias tweeted. “Bill is now heading to the governor’s desk. Watch this space for more news once he’s signed.”

A record 158 million people voted in the November elections, thanks in part to new rules that made voting easier during the COVID-19 pandemic. New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice found that 29 states and the District of Columbia passed laws and changed procedures to expand voting access during the health crisis.

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