A Republican-controlled Florida Senate Committee is on the cusp of potentially nuking key provisions from an elections bill that would enhance the integrity of the state’s elections.
On Wednesday, the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee filed a substitute to SB 7050 that includes numerous changes to the original version of the proposed law. As originally written, SB 7050 would expand the power of the state’s Office of Election Crimes and Security to review and conduct preliminary investigations into “any alleged election irregularity,” as well as “make referrals for further legal action” to the Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Department of Law Enforcement, and the “state attorney with jurisdiction over the matter.”
“The statewide prosecutor receiving a complaint referred by the office shall investigate the complaint promptly and thoroughly, undertake any related criminal action as justified by law, and report to the office the results of any such investigation, any related action taken, and the final disposition of the complaint,” the bill reads.
Launched last year, the Office of Election Crimes and Security was created to “investigate election law violations” throughout the state. While the aforementioned provisions would provide Florida officials with greater oversight in ensuring election laws are being followed, the Republican-controlled Senate Fiscal Policy Committee’s proposed substitute bill omits such changes.
The proposed committee substitute for SB 7050 also doesn’t incorporate a key provision from the original version that would have required individuals registering to vote for the first time in Florida and who the state “has verified has not been issued a social security number, a current and valid Florida driver license, or a current and valid Florida identification card” to vote “in person the first time [he or she] votes in [Florida].” The provision includes exceptions for those permitted to vote absentee as specified by federal law.
Moreover, the substitute bill also limits the ability of citizens to submit official information regarding potentially ineligible voters. While the original version allows election supervisors to act upon “any official information” from “any source” identifying a registered voter as potentially ineligible,” the substitute limits the supervisor to act on such information only if it is provided by a “governmental entity.”
While the proposed substitute bill carries over important changes from the original version, it simultaneously delays their implementation for several years. Both versions of SB 7050, for example, stipulate that the registration of third-party voter registration organizations “automatically expires at the conclusion of the specific general election cycle for which the third-party voter registration organization is registered,” meaning said groups would have to re-register for every general election. If passed and signed into law, such changes under the original version would take effect on July 1. Under the substitute version, however, said provisions would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2025.
Other changes to how third-party voter registration organizations can operate in elections would also be subject to the aforementioned enaction dates.
“We hope that the final version of the bill will include a requirement for first time voters to vote in person if they have not shown top tier ID when registering, and efforts to clean up the voter rolls will include meaningful input from citizens with credible written documentation,” Wendy Nissan and Elizabeth Butler, co-directors of the Florida Fair Elections Coalition, told The Federalist. “We support the requirements that all third-party voter registration organizations turn their registrations in on time and these changes become effective immediately.”
The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee is expected to vote on the substitute version of SB 7050 on Thursday, according to Nissan. A similar bill (HB 7067) to SB 7050 was reported favorably by the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
While far from perfect, the substitute bill does improve upon the original by scrapping language that plays into Democrats’ phony “election officials are under attack” narrative. Despite already being illegal under federal law, the original bill includes a provision criminalizing attempts to “intimidate, threaten, coerce, or harass an election worker with the intent to impede or interfere with the performance of the election worker’s official duties.”
In the weeks leading up to the 2022 midterms, left-wing activists masquerading as “journalists” published hit piece after hit piece warning that Republican “election deniers” were plotting to disrupt local election precincts on Election Day by threatening election workers and intimidating voters. Like most other media-manufactured narratives, the tale never came true.
The office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did not respond to The Federalist’s request for comment on whether DeSantis supports either version of SB 7050 in its current forms. Additionally, the office of Fiscal Policy Committee chair and Republican Sen. Travis Hutson did not respond to The Federalist’s request for comment.