How Florida’s new election laws could impact you at the polls

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

Parts of Florida’s controversial election law have been temporarily reinstated. This could impact you during the midterm elections in November.

Some political analysts and critics of the law say minority voters and the elderly will feel the changes the most. The Lee County Supervisor of Elections said he doesn’t think voters in Southwest Florida will notice much of a difference.

In a 15-page opinion, an appeals court let Governor DeSantis have his way. The election law the governor and the Republican legislature pushed for last year will stand for the midterm elections after a district court judge ruled parts of the law unconstitutional.

“They basically said, ‘look, there’s only a few months to go until the next election.’ You don’t want to make changes close to the election because that has the unintentional consequences of confusing people and making things worse, perhaps,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at UCF.

Lee County Supervisor of Elections Tommy Doyle says the effect for voters here will be minimal. “They probably won’t even notice there was a law passed,” said Doyle.

The main things changing? Drop boxes will be limited to certain hours and must be supervised. No one can engage voters in line at the polls. Groups can’t collect and deliver dozens of ballots anymore. Voters can only have their own ballot, an immediate family member’s, and two more ballots.

Doyle said the last change would be what voters in Lee County notice most.

“The only thing it affects is how many ballots you can drop off at the station,” said Doyle.

Political analysts that WINK News spoke to say changing when, where, and how people can vote could have significant consequences for some groups.

“Those who tend to be elderly, tend to be brown, black, they are the ones who oftentimes are less familiar with the voting process and so outside organizations are prevented from collecting the ballots and turning them in,” said Peter Bergerson, a professor of political science and public administration at FGCU.

“Politically, this could hurt minority voting turnout and thus might hurt democratic chances of winning,” said Jewett.

The appellate court’s decision is not final, meaning the law still could be overturned in the end, but not before the midterm elections.

They overruled a federal judge who accused the state of discriminating against black voters with the new election laws.

“In essence, it reinstated the law that is at issue here and the effects of that is that it is going to make it more difficult potentially for minority voters, individuals who do not have easy access to voting booths,” said Bergerson.

“I guess it doesn’t make a big difference to me but I could see how it could be problematic if someone is like handicapped and can’t leave or someone has some sort of restrictions to go out in public,” said Israel Alpizar, of Fort Myers.

Bergerson told me some groups will feel the changes in big ways. “I think the ones that are going to impact the minority voters, in general, are going to be the outside groups being involved in the election, encouraging people to register to vote, encouraging them to vote by absentee and that is the group that is really going to be disadvantaged, those who tend to be elderly, tend to be brown, black,” said Bergerson. “It’s really going to work to the disadvantage of those who tend to vote democratic.”

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