Florida Voters Need to Pay Attention to Partisan Proposals to Change Our Elections System

Statement by Anjenys Gonzalez-Eilert, Executive Director of Common Cause Florida

Today’s press release and speech by Gov. Ron DeSantis should be a wake-up call. 

Every voter in Florida needs to pay attention to these partisan proposals to change the way we hold our elections.

Our current system of elections dates back to 2001, and a bill passed by a Republican-led Legislature and signed by then-Governor Jeb Bush. That bill, together with legislation passed in 2004 by a Republican-led Legislature and also signed by Gov. Bush, have structured Florida’s elections for the past eight cycles.

Florida’s voters know this system – we’ve been relying on it for the better part of a generation without any significant problems.  

Last November, in the middle of a pandemic, more than 11 million Floridians used this system to cast ballots to choose Donald Trump as President. As Gov. DeSantis said in today’s press release, ‘Florida held the smoothest, most successful election of any state in the country.’

But the rest of the country chose Joe Biden. And now our Republican Governor and Republican-led Legislature are following a national script: blaming Donald Trump’s loss on a variety of unsubstantiated allegations. Disinformation and outright lies helped Trump pull in more than $250 million in donations after the election, even though only a tiny fraction of that was spent on legal challenges.

But that false rhetoric had immediate costs: it led to the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, resulting in the deaths of three police officers and injuries to 138 others.

It’s also having longer-term costs. Across the country, the talking points have been used to justify the filing of more than 165 bills to restrict voting.      

Today, Gov. DeSantis used that same rhetoric to justify his proposals to make voting harder here in Florida. The changes he is proposing are unnecessary or duplicative. They would require new, frivolous spending — at a time when state resources are needed to help Floridians during the COVID pandemic. His sights should be set on how we meet budget shortfalls and keep Floridians safe — not how we keep them silenced.    

How do you claim in one breath that we had the most secure election, and in the next breath spout allegations about how the integrity of our elections is at stake? Governor DeSantis, you can’t have it both ways. It would be too kind to say ‘This is a solution in search of a problem.’ It’s not. It’s an excuse to make it harder for Floridians to control our own government. 

Our elected officials are supposed to represent ‘the people’ – not partisan or special interests.  Gov. DeSantis’ proposals to make it harder to vote are completely contrary to the interests of ‘the people’ of Florida. They are completely contrary to his glowing assessment of our November election. They are clearly in service of partisan interests — and we’ve already seen where that can lead.  

This is our government – and ballots are the way our voices are heard. We cannot allow our elected officials to silence us.

Over the next few weeks, every voter in Florida needs to pay close attention to how the Legislature handles these proposals. Our right to vote is the foundation of our form of government. Our elected officials should act to encourage voting, not create barriers to it. 

Their actions on these proposals will indicate quite clearly whether they value voters’ voices — or whether they want to keep us from voting, in order to score points with partisan political interests.