DeSantis signs controversial elections overhaul law in made-for-Fox-only ceremony

Hundreds gather in West Palm Beach to honor Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as he prepares to sign an elections overhaul bill that many say will make it harder for Floridians to vote. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS)
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Anthony Man South Florida Sun Sentinel (TNS)

Six months after a record-breaking 11.1 million Floridians voted in well-run, widely praised election, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Thursday that will make it harder for some people to vote in future elections.

He touted the law as a fraud-fighting measure — even though neither he nor other supporters came up with any examples of fraud from recent Florida elections that needed any remedies.

DeSantis signed the measure into law at political rally in West Palm Beach, arranged so he could take the action during the Fox News Channel morning show “Fox & Friends.” Hundreds of DeSantis supporters attended the event. Florida news reporters and photographers were excluded.

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The new law increases restrictions on drop boxes, requires voters to sign up for mail ballots more frequently and imposes additional ID and signature rules. It wasn’t as far reaching as the initial legislation Republicans proposed.

“We think this will make it even better as we go forward, so we’re proud of the strides that we’ve made,” he said. “We’re not resting on our laurels, and me signing this bill here says Florida your vote counts. Your vote is going to be cast with integrity and transparency.”

A coalition of left leaning advocacy groups and public interest groups immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new law. The League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matters Fund and Florida Alliance for Retired Americans termed it voter suppression and said it violates the Constitution.

Democrats condemned the law — and what they said were the motivations for it.

“Governor DeSantis paid homage to Donald Trump by signing Florida’s new election law disguised as a response to false claims by Republicans that November’s election was rigged,” U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, said in a statement. “In reality, this is part of a nationwide effort by Republicans to suppress the votes of Black Americans.”

Democrats condemned both the substance of the legislation and the fact that DeSantis signed it on Fox news at rally of supporters.

“The bill signing of a voter suppression bill by our Governor is a “Fox Exclusive” — when did public policy become an exclusive to any media company, let alone a hyper conservative one?! This is how fascism works y’all — & if you’re proud about the bill let ppl see you sign it!” state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, wrote on Twitter. She had been considering a run for the 2022 Democratic nomination for governor, but said Thursday she would run for re-election

Before Fox went live, reporters outside the event space at the Airport Hilton in West Palm Beach could hear DeSantis revving up the crowd, though it wasn’t possible to hear what he was saying. Hundreds of people were on their feet, cheering and applauding, then chanted “four more years!”

Afterwards dozens of supporters crowded around DeSantis to get selfies. One man proudly showed off his cap, which the governor had just signed.

DeSantis left quickly, without talking to Florida reporters. On the way to his SUV, DeSantis rejected criticism of the way the signing rally was conducted. “It was on national TV. It wasn’t a secret.”

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(Sun Sentinel staff writers Joe Cavaretta, Kathy Laskowski and Skyler Swisher and Orlando Sentinel staff writer Steven Lemongello contributed to this report.)
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