Expert: FL election reforms hurt disadvantaged voters but don’t solve voter fraud
Last year’s electoral reforms erected barriers to voting for disadvantaged people in Florida while doing nothing to strengthen the integrity of the election — the purported reason for the law — an election expert testified Tuesday.
Michael Herron, chair of Dartmouth College’s Quantitative Social Sciences program, said Senate Bill 90, the law at issue, would likely reduce the vote of blacks, Hispanics, elderly and disabled Floridians, and the poor in the country. making it more difficult for third parties. pushing party voter registration to operate and requiring voters to apply for mail-in voting every two years, rather than every four, among other new restrictions.
The League of Women Voters of Florida, which is seeking in federal court to have SB 90 struck down, is one such third party that regularly runs voter registration drives.
As a witness in that lawsuit, Herron was questioned about statements by Republican sponsors in the House and Senate made in support of SB 90. For example, according to a legislative transcript, State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia said: “When we look at voting by mail ballots, there are almost no guarantees.
“The statement is false,” Herron said. “There are safeguards for mail-in voting in Florida. These include safeguards regarding voter registration and the use of security envelopes to vote.
In the Senate, the bill’s sponsor, Dennis Baxley, said during a debate, “I really believe we will have a more secure process when people can decide each year how they would like to vote.”
“There’s no basis in the election administration literature to support the suggestion that elections are safer when people have to decide more frequently when they want to vote, no,” Herron said.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee presides via Zoom over the lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters and other voting and civil rights organizations seeking to overturn SB 90, approved by the 2021 Legislature in the request of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.
They insist the law makes voter registration drives, mail-in voting through mailboxes or ballot boxes, and makes it more difficult to provide basic voter assistance online, which would result in the removal of the vote.
Attorney General Ashley Moody, with state and national Republican Party support, is defending the law. Although Florida county election supervisors are named as defendants because they should be enforcing it, their organization spoke out against the legislation while it was pending.
Herron witnessed a major shift to mail-in voting in 2020 due to COVID-19, with 4.9 million votes cast this way compared to 2.8 million in 2016. Making mail-in voting more difficult will affect all those voters and more, he said. .
“If voters who vote by mail vote in person, they risk causing congestion at polling stations,” he said.
Traditionally, Republicans had preferred this way of voting more than Democrats, but that “tilted” in 2020. This was true for multiple demographics, including age groups and minorities.
The new law will weigh on older voters, Democrats and minority voters to the extent they want to vote by mail rather than vote in person, he said.
Herron said he testified in a number of lawsuits alleging voter fraud in the 2020 election and those cases produced no evidence of fraud.
As to whether mail-in voting is particularly susceptible to fraud, as Republicans including DeSantis have alleged, Herron insisted there was no supporting evidence.
He pointed to states like Oregon and Washington, which have long relied almost exclusively on mail-in voting, and Montana, which switched to mail-in voting between the primary and general elections in 2020. Neither state has reported widespread fraud, he said.
There’s no evidence that Florida is an outlier when it comes to fraud compared to other states, Herron said.
Florida election supervisors, meanwhile, reported suspected cases of double voting in 11 counties that could be explained by administrative errors. SB 90 doesn’t address that, Herron said. Supervisors reported no issues with drop boxes – the use of which is severely restricted under SB 90.
“Are you aware of any evidence that leads you to believe there was systematic voter fraud in Florida in 2020? asked the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Lali Madduri.
“No. No evidence,” Herron said.
“Are you aware of any evidence that leads you to believe that a fraudulent vote was counted in Florida in 2020 that could have been prevented by SB 90?
“No. No proof,” he repeated.
He also cited statements from Secretary of State Laurel Lee and Senator Baxley attesting to the security of the 2020 vote, with the latter saying he had “very high credibility.”