Q&A of the Day – Why is Florida Reforming Elections Again?

Q&A of the Day – Why is Florida Reforming Elections Again? 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.   

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com  

Social: @brianmuddradio    

iHeartRadio: Use the Talkback feature – the microphone button on our station’s page in the iHeart app.    

Today’s Entry: @brianmuddradio If Florida’s elections are already running so well why mess with it? 

Bottom Line: Today’s note feels like a different version to a similar thing that I addressed after Florida conducted the smoothest election process in the country in the 2020 presidential election. If it went well, why mess with it? Well, you’ve obviously noticed that despite the outrageous claims that Florida’s election integrity measures passed after the 2020 election cycle were akin to being Jim Crow 2.0, and other outrageous claims, those reforms likewise proved to be effective as Florida conducted its smoothest midterm election cycle on record last fall. And that’s illustrative of the bigger picture perspective that’s in play with what’s been proposed here. Rather than the state taking the passive approach of, if it doesn’t appear to be broken, don’t try to fix it. Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the approach has been, and continues to be one of, can we do better? That approach works in two ways. Improving processes and being proactive to combat potential misfeasance. I’ll address each of those lanes but first, let’s take a look at the meat of the bill as currently written.  

Yesterday I brought you a story about what’s in Florida’s latest election integrity bill. Let’s revisit the biggest changes which are currently proposed starting with those which address reforming processes: 

  • Public notices: For all public notices, the current law mandating they be published in a local newspaper would be changed to enable online publishing on official websites 

It is inarguable that this change in law should be mandated. It’s not only outdated, but also an actual disservice to Floridians. Most recently only 12% of adults read a newspaper. That means nearly 9 in 10 Floridians would never have a chance to come across public notices intended for them to see. Conversely, more than 96% of Floridians access the internet regularly.   

  • Election Workers: Those working polls would gain new protections as it would become a 3rd degree felony to intimidate, threaten, coerce or harass an election worker   

This one is subjective, however an increase in threats against election workers have risen in recent cycles. Having qualified and credible election workers is essential. Raising penalties for those who’d threaten workers to felonies from misdemeanors seems entirely reasonable.  

  • Campaign Finance: Reforms the timeline for campaign finance reporting and raises the penalty for violations from a maximum of $1,000 to $2,500 per violation 

The public at large likely doesn’t care much about this one way or another, but raised penalties might get the attention of campaigns and candidates. Notably Nikki Fried engaged in numerous reporting violations preceding and during her time as Agriculture Commissioner. Clearly the penalties weren’t enough to get her attention. I’m not sure if the new higher threshold would either, but it’s more likely. And this takes us to the election integrity related changes... 

  • 3rd Party Voter Registration Groups: Every 3rd party voter registration organization would be required to reregister with the state for every cycle they participate in and would have to turn in all voter registration applications within 10 days (down from 14) 

The merits of having 3rd party voter registration groups reregister can and is being argued, though personally I don’t see why that should be an issue for legitimate organizations. Regarding the timeline for voter registration applications to be turned in. First of all, how many people knew 3rd parties could hold onto those for two weeks? How many think that’s a good idea? Frankly the limited 10-day threshold under the law still seems far longer than makes sense.  

  • New voters: Those voting for the first time in Florida who have yet to obtain a state-issued ID or have yet received a Social Security number, would have to vote in person 

This is simple and straightforward. Some cities and states are now issuing IDs to illegal immigrants. If your identity hasn’t been verified by the state, it’s entirely responsible for poll workers to verify that one is a lawful voter in Florida. 

  • Signature Verification: Mandatory education on signature analysis for those involved in the signature verification process for vote by mail ballots  

I’ve always thought a standardized course for signature verification made sense. What’s the point of having signature verification if poll workers responsible for verifying signatures aren’t credibly trained, what’s the point? 

This takes us full circle. The point really isn’t about how well the previous election went. The point is about whether we can do better. As evidenced in this story, we can. In addressing election integrity, we shouldn’t wait to be reactive. If we see trends elsewhere which haven’t yet impacted Florida meaningfully, it certainly wouldn’t be better to wait until it does before doing something to combat it. As of the 2018 election cycle, prior to any of the election integrity laws having been passed, Florida was one of the ten worst states in the country for election integrity measures. After the first round of reforms Florida improved to 33rd nationally in the 2020 election cycle. Most recently, as of last year’s integrity measures, Florida now ranks 6th for election integrity. That’s a huge improvement over where we were just over six years ago. It also accounts for the vast improvement in Florida’s elections over the previous two cycles. It also shows we could do better. Hence what’s currently being worked on. 

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