DeSantis Shuts Out Reporters as he Signs Florida Voting Restrictions Into Law

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DeSantis shuts out reporters as he signs voting restrictions into Florida law.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed new voting restrictions into law on Thursday that will make it more difficult for people to vote by mail and use ballot drop boxes.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed new voting restrictions into law on Thursday that will make it more difficult for people to vote by mail and use ballot drop boxes.Credit…Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald, via Associated Press
  • May 6, 2021, 9:50 a.m. ET

MIAMI — Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed new voting restrictions into law on Thursday that put him in line with other Republicans around the country — with a display of nose-thumbing contempt toward journalists that evoked former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. DeSantis’ brash style has made him stand out from other potential heirs to Mr. Trump’s populist legacy. But his actions are part of a national effort by Republicans. In Florida, the law limits the use of popular ballot drop boxes, adds identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots and requires them to request absentee ballots for each election, rather than sign up for them automatically.

The next big move could happen in Texas, although the situation at the State Capitol in Austin is in flux. There is movement in virtually every state with a Republican-controlled legislature — including in Arizona, where G.O.P. lawmakers are conducting an audit of the November results, an exercise that has been plagued by lapses in basic security and accounting procedures.

All of this comes in the wake of Mr. Trump’s loss, and his subsequent false claims that expansion of ballot access led to rampant voter fraud.

Official audits of election results around the country, conducted by officials from both parties, found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Mr. DeSantis enacted the legislation even after he had promoted Florida’s handling of the November elections. Mr. Trump won the state by three percentage points.

The governor gave Fox News, his preferred major cable news outlet — and Mr. Trump’s — an exclusive to broadcast the bill signing ceremony from West Palm Beach on Thursday morning, in an event that resembled a campaign rally as much as an official act of state government.

Supporters of Mr. DeSantis gathered inside a Hilton near the airport, donning DeSantis and Trump campaign gear. Before they entered, some people waved Trump-DeSantis and DeSantis 2024 banners, according to photos on social media shared by journalists locked outside the doors.

“Right now, I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country,” a seated Mr. DeSantis told Fox as a rowdy crowd cheered behind him.

Mr. DeSantis and his predecessors have been known to sign bills, especially controversial ones, in private. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a lower-key politician who has kept Mr. Trump at a relative arm’s length, signed his state’s bill in a conference room in his office, as a Democratic state legislator knocked on the door, demanding to be let in. She was instead arrested, and later released.

Giving exclusive access to a cable news network was unusual, if not unprecedented. A reporter from a local CBS station said it was supposed to carry the broadcast feed for other stations, a practice known as pooling, but was also not allowed inside.

“We were happy to give them the exclusive on that, and I think it went really, really well,” Mr. DeSantis said when he was asked about the Fox News access later on Thursday in Panama City Beach. He trumpeted the network’s “millions” of viewers and estimated that a thousand people had filled the Hilton ballroom: “It’s the first bill signing I’ve ever done live on a national broadcast.”

Florida is the latest state to pass voter restrictions as Republicans move to reverse gains made by Democrats in Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere.

In Texas, Republicans in the legislature are brushing aside objections from corporate titans like Dell Technologies, Microsoft and American Airlines and moving on a vast election bill that would be among the most severe in the nation.

It would impose new restrictions on early voting, ban drive-through voting, threaten election officials with harsher penalties and greatly empower partisan poll watchers. The main bill passed a key committee in a late-night session on Thursday, and could head to a full floor vote in the House as early as next week.

Bills to restrict voting have also been moving through Republican-led legislatures in Arizona and Michigan.

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