The pleas from Florida election officials were direct and dire: Passing the state’s new voting bill would be a “grave security risk,” “unnecessary” and a “travesty.”
The restrictions imposed by the new law, they warned, would make it harder to vote and hurt confidence in the balloting process.
But their objections were brushed aside on Thursday night as the Legislature gave final passage to a bill that would limit voting by mail, curtail the use of drop boxes and prohibit actions to help people waiting in line to vote, among other restrictions, while imposing penalties on those who do not follow the rules. It was perhaps the clearest sign yet that Republicans are determined to march forward across state capitols to establish new restrictions on voting.
The Republican effort puts added pressure on Democrats in Congress to find a way to pass federal voting laws, including a sweeping overhaul known as the For the People Act. But in Washington, just as in state capitols across the country, Republicans have remained united and steadfast against the Democratic efforts.
Georgia Republicans in March enacted far-reaching new voting laws that limit ballot drop-boxes and forbid the distribution of food and water to voters waiting in line. Iowa has also imposed new limits, including reducing the period for early voting and in-person voting hours on Election Day.
Next up is Texas, where Republicans in the legislature are trampling protestations from corporate titans like Dell Technologies 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.
Throughout the process, Republican legislators have been largely unmoved by opposition to new voting laws by Fortune 500 companies, major American sports leagues, Black faith leaders and elections administrators. Nor has the lack of popular support for many of the bills deterred them. Even as some of the more strident initial proposals have been watered down, there has rarely been a pause, even for a moment, in the drive to pass new legislation on voting.
“I don’t think anybody was concerned about it,” Joe Gruters, a Florida state senator and the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said of outside criticism.
Tightening his state’s election laws, Mr. Gruters has said, is a top priority not just of Republican lawmakers but also of the party’s base. Though he characterized Florida’s election system as a national “gold standard” and said he wasn’t aware of any fraud in the 2020 election, Mr. Gruters said in a phone interview on Friday that his state’s voting could always be improved.
“It’s just like when the Tampa Bay Bucs won the Super Bowl — they’re still making improvements and signing new players,” he said.
A representative for Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Friday that he “is supportive” of the Florida bill, and he is widely expected to sign it. But state election officials were still protesting the measure on Friday morning, barely 12 hours after it had passed.
The group representing Florida election supervisors issued a statement lamenting the new limits on voting by mail, saying the changes would make it “harder” to cast a mail ballot. “After days of debate, our hope is that the initial and unnecessary call for election reform will not detract from the confidence that was well-earned…