This text represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Instances Editorial Board.
Following a clean, high-turnout election in 2020, some Republican lawmakers can’t resist tinkering with Florida’s vote--mail system. A invoice transferring the state Senate would hit the reset button on all mail poll requests, little doubt creating confusion amongst voters. It is a resolution looking for an issue that additionally reeks of partisanship.
Below present regulation, when voters request a mail poll, the request is nice for 2 normal election cycles. SB 90, sponsored Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, would scale back that to 1 election and require everybody who signed up for a mail poll in 2020 to reapply to obtain it in 2022.
Baxley claimed the change might “invigorate” turnout. Different Republicans used phrases like “reset” and “refresh” to explain the impact on Florida’s voting system. However in a state with a infamous historical past of fumbling the ball on Election Day, “refreshing” a system that’s lastly working is simply asking for hassle — to not point out extra embarrassing headlines.
The invoice additionally creates an unfunded mandate. A legislative evaluation notes that counties would bear extra processing prices if the change prompted the next variety of poll requests. However the actual value could be in getting the phrase out. First, there are the voters who’ve already requested a mail poll, who assume they’re lined however who must resubmit their request. Then there’s the broader public schooling that will be required. Paul Lux, the supervisor of elections in Okaloosa County, instructed legislators: “A giant concern to the supervisors is it ‘clear slates’ all the things.”
This wouldn’t be the primary time the slate has been cleaned. Because the institution of Florida’s vote--mail system, the regulation has modified 4 occasions relating to what number of elections one mail poll request would cowl. Baxley’s invoice would mark the fifth change. Regularly altering these small however essential particulars of state election regulation isn’t the way you create an knowledgeable voters, not the way you run clean elections and positively not the way you encourage sturdy turnout.
That’s the acknowledged concern of some Senate Democrats, who suspect that decrease participation is the actual aim. In 2020, 2.1 million Democrats voted mail, in comparison with 1.5 million Republicans and 1 million no-party voters. Shuffling the principles for mail poll requests might dampen these numbers going into 2022. Baxley’s weak protection: “Why not do that?” The stronger argument: “Why change what’s working?”
Baxley’s invoice would additionally lengthen the variety of days officers need to depend mail ballots from 22 days earlier than Election Day to 35-40 days. That might codify a component of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ govt order final yr that prolonged the canvassing interval in response to the coronavirus. The change is smart. Confusion and mistrust erupted in different states that didn’t begin counting ballots till Election Day. It’s prudent to supply adequate time to depend mail-in ballots so voters know the correct consequence as early as doable. Nonetheless, the dangerous far outweighs the nice in Baxley’s invoice.
Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus instructed a Home committee final week, “Our election code works.” That truth, supported the exemplary, problem-free election Florida carried out final yr, must be all the explanation wanted to desert this pointless change to the state’s vote--mail system.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Instances. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Observe @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for extra opinion information.