Florida Leads on Voting Reforms

A poll worker casts a mail-in ballot for a voter at a drive-thru polling station during the primary election in Miami, Fla., August 18, 2020. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

In a season of recriminations over election procedures, Florida stood out as an exemplar. More than 99 percent of its 11 million votes were counted by midnight on Election Day with little controversy. Meanwhile, 71.7 percent of all eligible Florida voters participated in the 2020 election, up from 65.6 percent in 2016, 63.3 percent in 2012, and 57.5 percent in 2000.

This is yet another example of the good governance of the Republicans who have run the Sunshine State for two decades. It also illustrates how the state has learned its lessons from the infamous 2000 recount. And it proves that Republicans have nothing to fear from well-run, high-turnout elections. Florida should be a model for Republicans around the country looking at their own voting systems.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis, however, is not content to rest on his laurels. He’s proposing a series of reforms to head off problems that have cropped up in other states. DeSantis would ban ballot harvesting by prohibiting anyone but a voter’s family from handling his or her absentee ballot — protecting the ballot secrecy that we take for granted in the voting booth. He would prohibit mass-mailing of unrequested mail-in ballots, tighten signature requirements, keep ballot dropboxes under the supervision of polling places, and limit no-excuses mail-in voting to prioritize in-person voting, where Florida law already requires voter ID.

DeSantis would also beef up the state’s already-impressive transparency regime to publish an accurate tally during the count of how many ballots remain outstanding — a way to create more confidence around the process and lessen suspicions about surprise “vote dumps.” And he would ensure that observers cannot be banned from watching the signature-verification process.

DeSantis is not alone; Republicans are proceeding along similar lines in Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and other states where they control the state government, as well as in states such as Pennsylvania where they hold the state legislature.

Republicans should not be hostile to every effort to make voting easier, but neither should they be cowed by knee-jerk Democratic accusations of “voter suppression.” Florida offers a good blueprint for protecting the integrity of the vote and making the process more transparent without making voting unreasonably difficult.

As in so many things recently, a good rule of thumb for policymakers in other states is “learn from Florida.”


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