Governor Ron DeSantis speaks out on safety protocols and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic during a panel discussion with theme park leaders on Wednesday, August 26, 2020.
Joe Burbank | Orlando Sentinel | Tribune News Service | Getty Images
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a comprehensive election draft Thursday containing allegations that he will suppress voter turnout and is already facing a legal challenge.
DeSantis signed the SB 90 bill in a closed event that blocked all reporters and media coverage – except Fox News, who in a live interview applauded the Republican governor for his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
DeSantis said in a press release that the new voting rules are intended to increase voting security. “The Floridians can rest assured that our state will continue to lead the way in electoral integrity,” he said.
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However, civil and electoral groups promptly filed a complaint in federal court alleging the law violated the US Constitution, the Suffrage Act, and the Disabled Americans Act.
The NAACP, Disability Rights Florida, and Common Cause argue that the law imposes onerous identification requirements for postal voting and severely restricts dropboxing, among other things, provisions that negatively affect color voters and people with disabilities.
“I’m not a fan of Dropboxing at all, to be honest, but lawmakers wanted to keep it,” DeSantis said of Fox.
The governor, who signed the bill at a Hilton hotel near Palm Beach Airport, was flanked by supporters who clapped and cheered his responses during the interview.
In the meantime, local outlets reported that they had been banned from the event.
“The news media will not be allowed to participate in the signing of the controversial electoral law by Governor Ron DeSantis,” tweeted Steve Bousquet, columnist for Sun Sentinel in South Florida. “DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske says signing the bill is exclusive to Fox.”
CBS reporter Jay O’Brien said his outlet and others were also “not allowed into the event”.
DeSantis “signed a bill today that will affect ALL Floridians. And only some viewers were allowed to see it. That’s not normal,” O’Brien tweeted.
The DeSantis office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on why journalists were not allowed into the signing room.
Florida is just the latest GOP-led state to push for new voting restrictions. Georgia passed a law in March that drew heavy criticism from Democrats, corporate leaders and sports leagues alike. The Texan legislature is due to vote on its own electoral law on Thursday.
Former President Donald Trump, who remains a de facto GOP leader despite his loss to President Joe Biden, has repeatedly expressed doubts about the integrity of the 2020 election before and after he left office. Trump has spread a number of baseless conspiracy theories about widespread electoral fraud, falsely claiming he beat Biden.
Senior US officials in the Trump administration said the election was safe and no evidence of widespread fraud was found that would undo Biden’s victory.
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney from Wyoming urged her colleagues on Wednesday to reject Trump’s “personality cult”.
“Trump is trying to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work – confidence in the outcome of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this,” Cheney wrote in a Washington Post statement.
Growing numbers of House Republicans, as well as Trump and his allies, now say they no longer support Cheney as a leader.