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DeSantis Signs New Voting Law With More Restrictions In Florida

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A Republican effort to add voting restrictions now includes another big battleground state. Florida's governor signed those restrictions into law yesterday. And as if to highlight just how partisan this issue is, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill during an appearance on Fox News. Other media were kept out of the ceremony. Critics have already filed lawsuits saying the law is aimed at suppressing turnout by voters of color. NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Governor DeSantis signed the bill in a hotel ballroom in West Palm Beach packed with supporters, many of them sporting DeSantis campaign stickers. Unlike other bill signings, the media was not allowed to cover it, except for Fox News, which carried the bill signing live.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOX NEWS BROADCAST)

RON DESANTIS: Right now, I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country. I'm actually going to sign it right here. It's going to take effect.

(CHEERING)

ALLEN: DeSantis had previously praised his state's smooth election last year, but he and other Republicans followed similar efforts by other GOP-led states to enact voting restrictions, including Georgia, which adopted a law in March that sparked lawsuits and a backlash. Florida lawmakers toned down some of the most controversial measures. The most significant provisions put new restrictions on voting by mail. Voters will need to provide a valid ID or Social Security number to get a mail ballot. They'll also have to reapply every election cycle instead of once every four years, as in the past. And the use of drop boxes will be cut back. They'll only be available, DeSantis says, at early voting sites during working hours.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOX NEWS BROADCAST)

DESANTIS: Look. I'm not a fan of drop boxes at all, to be honest with you. But that legislature wanted to keep them. But they need to be monitored. You can't just leave these boxes out where there's no supervision where they're in all hours of the night.

ALLEN: The new law also says no one is allowed to offer anything to voters standing in line that might influence their decision, a revision that some advocates say can include things like free pizza and cold water. For decades in Florida, mail voting has been used most effectively by Republicans. That changed in the last election when Democrats cast nearly 700,000 more mail ballots than the GOP. Congresswoman Val Demings from the Orlando area is expected to announce she'll run against DeSantis in next year's gubernatorial race.

VAL DEMINGS: Governor DeSantis knows that his voter suppression bill is un-American. And so he is hiding in his ballroom, refusing to answer tough questions.

ALLEN: Moments after the bill's signing, several groups announced that they had joined together to file at least two lawsuits challenging Florida's new election law. The suits charge that the law targets minority voters and violates the Voting Rights Act and constitutional protections.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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