Elections legislation aims to fix what isn’t broken

Voters in Largo lineup during the first day of early voting in the 2020 Presidential Election. Daniel Figueroa IV/WMNF

By Javan Frinks

Florida has joined with dozens of other states in introducing legislation that could impact future elections. Among other things, these bills aim to restrict the vote by mail process and mirror Georgia’s ban on giving water to voters waiting in line, making it a misdemeanor to distribute anything, whether it’s political or not, to voters within 150 feet of a polling place.

President Biden spoke critically of these efforts likening them to racist Jim Crow laws of the past, while defenders of the legislation have said they are responding to the numerous questions and concerns about the integrity of last year’s elections. In 2020 Florida was able to avoid any electoral issues thanks in part to laws put in place since 2000 which sought to shore up the process.

Craig Latimer, the Supervisor of Elections for Hillsborough County and President of the Florida  Supervisors of Elections Association, says Florida’s elections are secure.

“In 2020 we had a fabulous election, even the Governor pointed it out, the Secretary of State pointed it out, telling people that they could have confidence that no matter which method they used to vote that they could rest assured that their vote was counted and counted accurately. And we did have a good election. Florida stood out in the nation as a matter of fact because of some of the laws we have in place.

“We’re able to start processing vote-by-mail ballots 22 days before the election. We have early voting sites, 26 of them in Hillsborough County, drop boxes at all those early vote sites and my four offices. We made it really accessible for the voters and the return on that was that 85% of our voters voted prior to election day.”

About 100,000 people voted on election day, but 370,000 voted by mail in Hillsborough County, Latimer said.

“They did that either by dropping it in the mail, because I pay the return postage, or by dropping it off at one of our drop off locations,” Latimer said. “We put pop up tents outside of our early vote sites so that people just literally drive up and drop off their ballot if they want to make sure they saw it go in the ballot box and not take a chance on the mail.”

Voters can easily track their ballots to make sure their votes have been counted.

“There are a lot of safeguards, there’s a lot around vote-by-mail already that’s in place already that’s just absolutely fantastic,” Latimer said. “That came from 2000 when we did have a problem and the legislature worked with the Supervisors of Elections have really put some great laws into vote-by-mail.”

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