Florida’s befuddling new voting laws all but guarantee widespread chaos in next year’s elections

Photo: League of Women Voters of Florida

By Noreen Marcus,

Floridians of every political persuasion who want to vote or help get out the vote in the 2024 elections must navigate a bog of confounding and scary new rules, courtesy of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration.

The restrictive laws complicate voting by mail, add stumbling blocks to voter registration and criminalize voluntary efforts to increase voting. The laws strike hardest at minorities who rely on voting assistance, said Cecile Scoon, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

“It’s completely un-American and some groups are being squeezed out little by little,” she said. “No one of us should take joy in shutting off the voice of another person just because it’s different from ours.”

She takes heart from a 288-page decision by Judge Mark Walker, chief of the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, in one of many challenges to the new state laws. “He literally found intentional discrimination. That’s really hard to prove,” said Scoon, an employment discrimination lawyer.

Cecile Scoon

DeSantis, the second-place contender for the Republican presidential nomination in nationwide polling, has triggered and signed suppressive voting laws throughout his term in office. He’s made them a centerpiece of his appeal to far-right supporters.

“Floridians can rest assured that our state will remain a leader in ballot integrity,” the governor’s office announced when DeSantis signed a wide-ranging voting bill into law in May 2021. “Elections should be free and fair, and these changes will ensure this continues to be the case in the Sunshine State.”


Reacting to the latest omnibus voting law, effective July 1, church leaders are afraid to conduct voting drives because a technical misstep could cost them $250,000, according to Equal Ground, a voter advocacy nonprofit.

Groups including Latino Justice, the League of Women Voters, Hispanic Alliance and the NAACP are pushing back in Tallahassee federal court with lawsuits aimed at curbing some of the most extreme provisions. They’re fighting the clock; courts tend to reject voting law challenges during political campaigns.

“It is a very uncertain time,” said Cesar Ruiz, a New York-based lawyer with Latino Justice who represents volunteer voting-aid plaintiffs in the federal litigation. “Historically these groups haven’t been persecuted this way.”

Cesar Ruiz

“We can already see some limitations on how people are gearing up” for getting out the vote next year, he said. “They’re not as aggressive as in the past because their liability is so great and that’s part of the intimidation factor.

“But that doesn’t mean people are packing it in,” Ruiz said. “They’re trying to meet the moment and understand how they can continue to persevere with their obligations under the new obstacles as imposed by the state through the new laws.”

This year DeSantis, in line with other Republican governors, yanked Florida out of the national Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a clearinghouse he had the state join in 2019. It’s the best tool for election officials to conduct fact-based purges of voting rolls, according to advocates.

“ERIC is about bringing people onto the voting rolls and taking them off and doing it fairly,” Scoon said. “The first year it worked. The second year, they just pushed people off, they didn’t spend the money to bring people in. There obviously was a pattern and plan.”


Yet DeSantis launched and gave sweeping powers to his Office of Election Crimes and Security (OECS), whose stated mission he calls one of his top priorities: stamping out election fraud.

So far, the OECS has found very few scofflaws. Still, officials stage dramatic arrests as if to show former convicts why it’s risky to vote, their advocates say, even though in 2018 about 65 percent of Floridians approved Amendment 4, the law that restores their voting rights.

“It seems like a very large waste of time and money,” Scoon said. She said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement already investigates voting fraud – and didn’t find much in 2022 – but DeSantis grabbed control to “tighten things up” by targeting certain potential voters such as former convicts.

On July 19 the group credited with securing passage of Amendment 4 filed Florida Rights Restoration Coalition v. DeSantis in Miami federal court. The lawsuit challenges the many ways the DeSantis administration allegedly sabotages the law, depriving former convicts of their right to vote in the guise of fulfilling its mandates.

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: WPTV/NBC News Channel

“The Defendants have continued to disenfranchise these citizens by abandoning the state’s legal obligation to determine voters’ eligibility; providing false information to potential voters; premising voter eligibility on the payment of financial obligations unrelated to their right to vote; and creating a new law enforcement agency that has orchestrated a campaign of arrests that have sent a message that voting, even in good faith, may result in arrest and prosecution,” the complaint says.

“Above all, the Defendants have defeated the promise of Amendment 4, which was to bring about an historic end to a 150-year constitutional injustice in Florida,” it says.


Restrictive voting laws are aimed at “creating an environment of confusion,” said Amy Keith, Florida program director of Common Cause, a national democracy watchdog.

“It’s not only harder to understand the rules, but also there’s intimidation, not just of voters but those who help voters, voter registration organizations and even people’s friends,” she said.

Keith referred to a 2022 Florida law that makes possessing more than two ballots a felony punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to five years in prison. What far-right legislators condemn as “ballot harvesting” could be, for example, dropping off two roommates’ sealed vote-by-mail ballots along with one’s own, she said. 

The Brennan Center for Justice noted “an increased focus in state legislatures on criminalizing election-related activities” in a national voting law survey published last month.

“Fueled by false claims of widespread voter fraud, a variety of bills would empower law enforcement to penalize voters, election officials, and volunteers for ordinary conduct and inadvertent errors,” the report says.

It singles out for criticism Florida’s two-ballot-max rule and DeSantis’s election prosecution office. Criminalizing regular voting activities “creates an atmosphere of fear around elections and can discourage participation by voters, election officials, and volunteers,” the Brennan Center report warns.


The same Florida legislators who rewrite long-established voting laws have abandoned their responsibility to inform the public about all the changes they’re making, Keith said.

“They didn’t designate any money for voter education,” she said. “The burden is on local supervisors of elections to find the resources and means to educate people.”

One provision that’s top of mind for county officials directly impacts voting by mail (VBM), which spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keith said a law passed last year makes processing these ballots more complicated for voters and election officials – “it’s really a gumming-up the works on VBM from multiple angles.”

Broward Commissioner Beam Furr

Under the 2022 law all VBM ballot requests were canceled statewide on Jan. 1, meaning Floridians who want to vote this way, instead of in person, must file new requests. In other words, all standing requests for mail-in ballots are gone.

The League of Women Voters of Broward County has prioritized informing the public of the urgent need to request ballots. “Voters don’t seem to realize this yet, so it will be a real shock when it is time for the presidential preference primary (March 19, 2024) when VBM ballot packets don’t show up in voters’ mailboxes,” a League e-flier says.

It says so far, the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office has only about 10 percent of the 400,000 VBM requests it had on file for the 2022 elections.


Broward County Commissioner Beam Furr said he wants to step up ballot requests by funding voter education and outreach through social and traditional media and live events.

When the commission held a fiscal year 2024 budget workshop in May, Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott asked for $240,800 for outreach before the March 2024 presidential preference primary and the same amount for the August 2024 primary, totaling $481,600, documents show. (Outreach funding for the November 2024 general election will appear in the fiscal year 2025 budget.)

“I remember thinking that the money the supervisor had asked for dealing with outreach wasn’t sufficient,” Furr said. “Obviously there are other places that money could be going, but this is one of the most important things that we can do.”

“Whatever resources he needs, we’ll give him,” Furr said. The commission asked Scott to revise his request upward and come back in September for further budget discussions.

Furr, a Democrat and former county mayor, criticized the motivation behind the law that erased all VBM requests.

“It’s just an extra hurdle for voters that’s really unnecessary,” he said. “You’re suppressing voting in general and Republicans probably think that’s to their benefit, but they’re suppressing Republican votes as well, especially seniors who may have a hard time getting out. It’s an anti-democratic move.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • Joe Scott is not a good example of voter outreach funds going to good use. He performed badly in the 2022 Broward primary. Large numbers of VBM ballots went to wrong addresses. Even former Cooper City Democrat mayor received a ballot with the wrong candidates. In my opinion, this article was a 4 out of 10. Using Joe Scott and voting as positives bring the article to a 0. I’m in San Francisco California (returning home to Florida in September 2022) and even I know of Scott’s incompetence.

  • So how and when do voters apply for a new vote by mail ballot?

  • Contact your local Supervisor of Elections Office. If you live in South Florida, see box beneath story.

  • Good comment Bradford. The press is lax to explain exactly how to do it. They do not explain why your neighbor is liable for a crime for giving you a ride to the polls, or handing you some water to drink in the heat, Come out and say exactly what is going on and push, editorially, beyond just reporting snippets, for the incredibly easy election reform (make it easy for folks to vote, not harder) that sits on the table for all legislators (who are afraid to lose their committee assignments; but don’t care how their children will view them with hatred and despite when they get old enough to understand!

  • I was intimately involved in the 2000 Florida vote catastrophe and was MOL satisfied🫤 with the reform and pleased that Florida is much better than average in vote counting. I’m very displeased😡 that Florida is far worse than average in voter suppression.🤬

  • Your website is crawling with DeSantis ads. I reported one to Google…closed the rest.

  • Go to to sign up for vote by mail.

  • We will also report to our AD server. We don’t accept political ads. Pls copy and send us the links so we can report them. Send to [email protected]

  • See the info box at the bottom of the story.

  • Some of the comments/questions illustrate the need for the changes. If they can’t understand simple directions, they automatically charge voter suppression. Classic. I remember the massive fraud when mail in ballots were harvested, ballots that were not filled out by the voters, ballots that had non-existent voters “sign” them. SOEs sent mail in ballots to dead people, to people who had moved. I got ballots for the prior owners of my home two elections in a row, even though I called the Hillsborough SOE’s office and told them. They were not interested in what I had to say. When I went on FB and posted the situation, only then did I stop getting ballots for people who had moved.

  • Noreen Marcus must be a proud DNC member where they believe it is ‘confounding and scary’ to produce a photo ID which, by the way, the state will provide for free in order to vote in Florida. There is no amount of whining they will stop at to provide their minions with cheating mechanisms. Amazing how Marcus cites ‘intentional discrimination’ but then says there’s no proof of it, lol. Mail in ballots were the single most illegal voting method used in the 2020 election. Without a required written request from a voter the DNC just bulk mailed millions of ballots out which were returned forged with no signature verification done. How easy is that to rig an election? Floridians are thankful to Gov. DeSantis for keeping our vote honest.

  • Thank you for an astute write-up.
    Hope my comment is not censored but the voting rules are certain for FL voters to vote Trump in the 2024 primary and the general election.

  • Total misinformation RE: “Mail in ballots were the single most illegal voting method used in the 2020 election. Without a required written request from a voter the DNC just bulk mailed millions of ballots out which were returned forged with no signature verification done.” More hocus-pocus from fanatics in that there was NO widespread fraud in Florida’s 2020 election and no proof that what minor problems occurred were due to mail in ballots. More ballots were challenged at the polling place than those mailed in.
    The BIGGEST LIE is that ” the DNC just bulk mailed millions of ballots out which were returned forged with no signature verification done” NEVER HAPPENED. What idiot thinks a private group can print up and mail out official ballots for use in an election? Or is someone claiming the DNC printed up fake ballots and mailed them out which would be pretty stupid given they would NOT be counted since all ballots have tracking codes on them that must match those in the Supervisor of Elections office.
    The ONLY ballots that count are those issued by the County Elections Supervisor and they also have to pass both signature verification and voter registration confirmation.
    Sadly we still have idiots spreading false rumors about the election process in order to undermine its legitimacy because these people do not want to accept the will of the people. A slap in the face for Democracy, not wanting people to vote, then complaining about the outcome of the vote. Sore malicious losers are a threat to our Democracy. RESPECT the vote.

leave a comment