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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) –

After hailing the Florida election as a national model, Republican state lawmakers decided to rewrite a litany of rules they believed would strengthen the integrity of future elections, despite critics calling it a partisan attempt. to keep some voters out of the polls.

The influence of voters who voted by mail has not been lost in the debate followed at the national level in a state which has a significant influence on the country’s balance of power.

Republicans and Democrats hailed Florida’s most recent election as other key states floundered on election night in November.

Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed for changes to the state’s election laws as part of an effort by Republicans across the country to overhaul the rules after last November’s presidential race in which the then president , Donald Trump, lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

Much of the debate revolved around postal ballots and how they are collected and returned.

Republicans called the GOP’s written measure a “guardrail” against fraud, while Democrats argued that the new rules were designed to make it more embarrassing, if not more difficult, for some to vote – especially among black voters and less experienced voters.

The measure passed on Thursday – and directed at the governor for his signature – was very different from some of the more severe measures initially proposed, including an outright ban on ballot boxes and the requirement to present ID when filing these ballots.

Still, Democrats had Georgia in mind as they decried the rule changes that remained, including a ban on groups that distribute food and water to voters waiting to vote – although the ban does not. would not apply to election officials.

“We never said a nonprofit was trying to influence people,” said Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican who helped push the bill through. “What we are saying in the bill is that the intent of the non-solicitation zone in this language is to ensure that no one is trying to influence the vote while they are online. .

Georgia’s drastic rewrite of its electoral rules has sounded alarm bells among Democrats and suffrage advocates in Florida and elsewhere, who oppose new identification requirements that critics say would make the changes a routine times more troublesome voter registration information.

“We had, as our Republican governor said, one of the best organized elections in the country, and yet today the majority party, through last-minute maneuvers, passed a bill of voter suppression after a voter suppression bill mimicking what happened in Georgia, ”said Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani.

If signed into law, drop boxes would only be available when early voting sites are open. In some counties, voters could use drop boxes at any time of the day to submit their completed ballots.

One of the central themes of the debate is postal voting, including the use of drop boxes and the so-called “ballot collection”. The latter is a practice Republicans have long sought to limit due to concerns that outside groups could tamper with the completed ballots they collect.

In addition, these drop boxes should be supervised by election officials.

Not so long ago, Republicans had the upper hand over postal voting. But Democrats fear the pandemic could prevent voters from voting on election day, prompting the party to make an aggressive effort to get people to vote early, especially by mail.

Last fall, Florida Democrats edged Republicans by mail by 680,000 mail-in votes.

More than 11 million Floridians voted in the November election, with 4.8 million postal votes – a record number that represented around 44% of the votes cast statewide. Trump has always carried Florida around 3%, but the Democratic advantage in the mail-in vote has raised concern among Republicans who once had the upper hand in the mail-in vote.

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