Florida voter suppression bill comes before state Senate hearing; Floridians can oppose it now

A bill in the Florida Senate could cripple mail-in voting and add unwanted expenses to county budgets. (Photo: Author)

March 9, 2021 by David Silverberg

The most significant bill suppressing voting in Florida is scheduled for committee consideration tomorrow, March 10—and Florida residents can weigh in with their opposition.

Senate Bill 90 would require voters seeking to vote by mail to renew their mail-in request every year in the calendar year of the election rather than the current two years. That means that voters seeking a mail-in ballot for the 2022 election would have to wait until next year to request it.

Introduced on Feb. 3 by state Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-12-Sumter County), the bill has already been approved by the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.

The Florida Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, has scheduled a hearing on it for tomorrow.

While the bill is ostensibly intended to prevent voter fraud, it has been denounced by county election supervisors, who worry that it will add unnecessary financial burdens to their counties.

The Miami Herald, editorialized that, “While not solving any real problems, it would force supervisors of elections to scramble to comply and notify voters, costing counties hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Further, it “smacks of a partisan attempt to confuse voters and catch them off guard in next year’s election.”

Florida Democrats have denounced the bill.

“Why do Florida Republicans want to limit vote by mail access? Well it all comes down to who has access to the franchise,” Marcus Dixon, Florida Democratic Party Executive Director told News4 in Jacksonville. “So even though the vote by mail system worked well here in Florida this past election, any time too many people have easy access to the ballot box, Republicans feel like they need to change the rules.”

Manny Diaz, Florida Democratic Party Chair, agreed. “This is not an issue of Republicans versus Democrats, but instead an issue of Republicans versus democracy,” Diaz said. “Florida Republicans keep showing us that when given a choice between defending the rights of voters, or suppressing voter access, disturbingly they will all too gladly suppress, harm and sacrifice our most sacred Constitutional right, on the altar of preserving power for the sake of power.”

Comment: What you can do

Florida residents can weigh in on this issue before, during and after it comes up for a hearing in the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee.

They can contact their state senators and urge them to oppose it.

To find your senator, go to Find Your Legislators and enter your address. Your senator will appear along with a button to e-mail that senator. Tell your senator to oppose SB 90 and keep the mail-in voting provision the way it functioned in 2020.

The members of the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee are:


Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-27-Estero)

Vice Chair:

Sen. Joe Gruters (R-23-Sarasota)


Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

US House votes to protect, fund Postal Service; Rooney opposes, Diaz-Balart, Steube absent

Aug. 22, 2020 by David Silverberg

Tonight the US House of Representatives voted to protect the US Postal Service (USPS) from disruptive changes designed to impede mail-in voting and provide $25 billion in funding to ensure its continued operations.

The Delivering for America Act (House Resolution 8015) passed by a vote of 257 to 150.

Among Southwest Florida representatives, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) voted against the measure, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) were absent.

“…For the sake of every senior who is delayed in getting his or her Social Security check, every veteran who is delayed in getting his or her medication, every working family who is delayed in getting their paycheck and every voter now facing the prospect of choosing between their vote and their health, we need to pass this bill,” House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) urged her colleagues in a speech on the floor.

She recounted a conversation with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy: “He said to me frankly, and I have to give him credit for his honesty, he said, ‘I have no intention of replacing the sorting machines that we’re removed from the Postal Service – offices.  I have no intention of replacing the blue mailboxes…’ that have been ripped from our neighborhoods and he had no plans for ensuring adequate overtime, which is critical, critical in the timely delivery of the mail.  He said he had no intention of treating ballots as First-Class mail.”

Documents released by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-12-NY), chair of the House Oversight and Government Committee, have revealed that DeJoy had deliberately misled Congress and could not be trusted.

DeJoy has since announced that the Postal Service will be treating ballots as First-Class mail.

In a pair of tweets today, President Donald Trump denounced the bill: “Representatives of the Post Office have repeatedly stated that they DO NOT NEED MONEY, and will not make changes. This is all another HOAX by the Democrats to give 25 Billion unneeded dollars for political purposes,  without talking about the Universal Mail-In Ballot Scam…. ….that they are trying to pull off in violation of everything that our Country stands for. Vote NO to the Pelosi/ Schumer money wasting HOAX which is taking place now. Then fight the $51 million unasked for Ballots. Only ABSENTEE BALLOTS are acceptable!”

Although Trump keeps drawing a distinction between mail-in ballots and absentee ballots, there is no difference. He has applied to vote by mail in Florida.

Steube also denounced the legislation in a tweet: “The latest political play from the Democrats is a conspiracy theory that Republicans are using operational changes to the USPS as a means to disenfranchise the American people. This is dishonest, ridiculous and even dangerous. Enough of the scare tactics, Speaker Pelosi.”

There were no immediate comments from Rooney or Diaz-Balart.

The bill now goes to the Republican-dominated Senate where it is unlikely to either pass or be brought up for a vote. Trump has threatened to veto it if it gets to his desk.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Last chance to vote in primary tomorrow; mail-in voting heavy in Lee and Collier counties

Lee County voting to date. (Chart: Lee County Supervisor of Elections)

Aug. 17, 2020 by David Silverberg

Tomorrow marks the last day to cast ballots for the Primary Election in Florida and the final count of ballots cast so far.

While very heavy mail-in voting by voters of all affiliations may have already decided the various contests, in tight races the last few votes cast tomorrow may make the difference between victory and defeat for some candidates.

Despite deliberate slowdowns in mail delivery engineered by US Postmaster Louis DeJoy and President Donald Trump, mail-in voting proved very popular in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting clearly have not deterred Southwest Florida voters of any party affiliation.

In Lee County, as of this writing, 24.6 percent of 468,141 eligible voters have cast ballots.

Of those, the vast majority of 38,624 Democrats voted by mail (36,387) and only 2,240 cast ballots in person in early voting.

Of 60,980 Lee County Republicans who voted, 52,714 voted by mail and 8,261 voted early in person.

Among Lee County non-party affiliates, 14,065 voted by mail and 559 voted in person. Some 571 other voters voted by mail and 21 in person.

Collier County voting to date. (Chart: Collier County Supervisor of Elections)

In Collier County, 27.43 percent of 217,278 voters (59,594) have cast ballots.

Of these, of the 16,457 Democrats who cast ballots, the vast majority (15,323) did so by mail and only 1,132 voted early in person.

Of the 34,971 Collier County Republicans who voted, 28,838 voted by mail and 6,131 in early in-person voting.

Among non-party affiliated voters, 7,004 voted by mail and 468 voted in person. Some 281 other voters voted by mail and 22 voted in person.

Polls are open in person tomorrow from 7 am to 7 pm. In Collier County, vote-by-mail ballots must be returned to the Supervisor of Elections office at 3750 Enterprise Avenue, Naples FL 34104 by 7 p.m. Postage is not required for ballots that are dropped off.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

With Republican turnout threatened, Trump reverses his attacks on mail-in voting in Florida

08-04-2020 Lee Co. mail turnoutLee County mail-in voting as of today.                     (Chart: Lee County Elections Office)

Aug. 4, 2020 by David Silverberg.

In a reversal of his previous vociferous opposition to mail-in voting, President Donald Trump now says that mail-in voting is “safe and secure, tried and true”—in Florida.

He announced the reversal in a 12:55 pm tweet today, August 4.

The full tweet stated (capitalization his): “Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!”

It is unclear to what “Democrats attempts” he was referring.

Trump’s previous attacks on mail-in voting were threatening Republican turnout in the key swing state. He has charged, without evidence or outside confirmation, that mail-in voting is “inaccurate and fraudulent” and rigging the election.

The Florida Republican Party attempted to hide Trump’s anti-mail Twitter rants by deceptively blurring out his criticisms in campaign flyers mailed to voters.

“He’s sowing the seeds of his own downfall with his rhetoric around vote by mail,” Katie Merrill, a Democratic strategist with the consulting firm, BaughmanMerrill, was quoted as saying in a Politico article, “Trump’s assault on mail voting threatens his reelection bid.

According to the Politico article, BaughmanMerrill commissioned a poll that found that “Republicans have become overwhelmingly concerned about mail balloting, which Trump has claimed, without evidence, will lead to widespread voter fraud. A potentially decisive slice of Trump’s battleground-state base — 15 percent of Trump voters in Florida, 12 percent in Pennsylvania and 10 percent in Michigan — said that getting a ballot in the mail would make them less likely to vote in November.”

In Southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties, mail-in voting is well under way.

As of this writing, Lee County is reporting that 67,768 ballots have already been cast. That’s 14.48 percent of a total of 468,141 voters. Of these, 33,329 were Republican, 24,020 were Democratic, 10,006 had no party affiliation and 413 fell into the “other” category.

In Collier County 37,136 voters have mailed in their ballots, or 17.09 percent of the 217,312 voters eligible. Of those, 20,702 were Republican, 10,985 were Democratic, 5,246 had no party affiliation and 203 were “other.”

08-04-2020 Collier County mail turnoutMail-in voting to date in Collier County.      (Chart: Collier County Elections Office)

Also threatening voting by mail are new measures that will serve to slow down and disrupt US Postal Service (USPS) operations. On July 10, Trump’s newly appointed Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, a major campaign donor, sent out a memo to all USPS personnel, announcing elimination of late and extra mail delivery trips.

Despite the new measure, mail has not been delayed in Lee and Collier counties, David Walton, a USPS corporate communications specialist told The Paradise Progressive in response to a query.

DeJoy’s memo follows years of attacks on the USPS by Trump, who has mainly complained that it is not charging Amazon.com enough for deliveries, although USPS makes money from Amazon.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg


Deceptively altered Trump tweets against mail-in voting come to Southwest Florida mailboxes

07-27-20 Trump flyer 1 001

July 28, 2020 by David Silverberg

With mail-in voting already under way, the Florida Republican Party is trying to overcome President Donald Trump’s vociferous disparagement of mail-in voting by deceptively hiding his attacks on the practice.

In printed flyers delivered to Southwest Florida voters encouraging Republican mail-in voting, the Party tries to make Trump seem like an advocate of voting by mail by blurring the lines of tweets he issued on June 28 and July 10.

The tweets were contradictory, drawing a distinction between mail-in ballots and absentee ballots. In fact they are the same.

Quoting a June 28 tweet, the flyer quotes Trump tweeting (capitalization his): “Absentee Ballots are fine. A person has to go through a process to get and use them.” Blurred out is the rest of the tweet: “Mail-In Voting, on the other hand, will lead to the most corrupt Election is USA history. Bad things happen with Mail-Ins. Just look at Special Election in Patterson, N.J. 19% of Ballots a FRAUD!

07-27-20 Trump flyer 1 001 (2)The June 28 Trump tweet as printed on the Republican flyer.
07-27-20 Trump tweet 1The Trump quote as actually tweeted.

In the July 10 flyer, Trump’s tweet (punctuation his) is quoted as: “….Absentee Ballots are fine because you have to go through a precise process to get your voting privilege.” Blurred out is the rest of the tweet: “Not so with Mail-Ins. Rigged Election!!! 20% fraudulent ballots?

07-27-20 Trump flyer 2 001 (2)The July 10 Trump tweet as printed on a Republican flyer.

07-27-20 Trump tweet 2

The July 10 Trump quote as actually tweeted.

In Southwest Florida mail-in balloting for the Aug. 18 primary is already heavy. According to the Lee County Supervisor of Elections, as of this writing, 43,963 ballots have already been cast. Of those, Republicans have mailed in 21,132 ballots and Democrats 15,572. Non-party affiliated voters have returned 6,995 and “others” 264.

In Collier County, 27,457 mail-in ballots have been returned. Republicans have returned 15,291, Democrats 7,928, non-party affiliated voters 4,077 and others, 155.

07-27-20 Trump flyer 2 001
One of the flyers mailed out by the Florida Republican Party

07-27-20 Trump flyer 1 full 001
One of the flyers mailed by the Florida Republican Party.

In the two tweets quoted and in others, Trump has argued that mail-in voting is “bad, dishonest and slow,” will lead to massive fraud and a “rigged election.” Nonetheless, mail-in voting is crucial to Republican hopes of success.

Election officials are expecting a massive influx of mail-in balloting this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg


Southwest Florida ready for massive voting by mail, say county election officials

04-22-20 Vote by mail Dems

April 22, 2020 by David Silverberg.

Lee and Collier county election officials say they are ready for massive voting by mail in this year’s elections.

Voting-by-mail has become a hot political topic amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald Trump has denigrated the practice as being subject to fraud, tweeting on April 8 “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” And he added the same day, “Absentee Ballots are a great way to vote for the many senior citizens, military, and others who can’t get to the polls on Election Day. These ballots are very different from 100% Mail-In Voting, which is “RIPE for FRAUD,” and shouldn’t be allowed!”

At the same time others view it as the single most viable alternative to in-person voting, which may endanger people’s health during the current pandemic. On April 15, a panel of Democratic Party officials urged Florida officials and voters to prepare for a big increase in mailed voting this year, according to Florida Politics.

In Southwest Florida, with its strongly seasonal populations,  voting by mail has long been in use.

“Statistics show that vote by mail continues to be the preferred method of Lee County voters, with approximately 51 percent choosing to do so in the 2018 Gubernatorial Election,” Vicki Collins, communications director for the Lee County Supervisor of Elections stated in an e-mail response to questions from The Paradise Progressive.

“Lee Elections is prepared to meet the higher demand for voting by mail in both the August Primary and November General Elections,” she stated.

When it comes to in-person activities, she added, the office is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to ensure a safe and sanitary environment for staff and our voters.”

Collier County is even more forward leaning on vote-by-mail.

“We are aggressively encouraging voters to vote by mail,” wrote Trish Robertson, the public relations officer for the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office, in response to The Paradise Progressive’s questions.

The very day Robertson responded, the Collier County elections office sent vote-by-mail request forms to over 211,000 voters.

Not only that, pointed out Robertson, “voters can expect the same dates and deadlines for the elections as prior to this pandemic. This won’t change unless the Governor makes a change in how the election is conducted.”

In an April 7 letter, Florida election supervisors urged Governor Ron DeSantis (R) to be flexible when it comes to voting by mail and made some recommendations for the upcoming elections. (Reproduced in full below.) “We are still waiting on a response,” stated Robertson.

As in Lee County, voting by mail is extremely popular in Collier County, pointed out Robertson.

“Voting by mail has been the most popular way to cast a ballot in the last three elections,” she noted.

  • In the 2018 Primary, of all voters: 53 percent voted by mail; 17 percent voted early; 29 percent voted on Election Day.
  • In the 2018 General: 38 percent voted by mail; 32 percent voted early; 30 percent voted on Election Day.
  • In the 2020 Presidential Preference Primary: 54 percent voted by mail; 22 percent voted early; 24 percent voted on Election Day.

To date, there have been no charges of election fraud in mailed ballots in Southwest Florida.

In this instance at least, Southwest Florida may be a leading region in the nation when it comes to voting by mail.

The letter by Florida election supervisors to Gov. Ron DeSantis:

RE:  Recommendations Concerning Election Related Issues Caused by COVID-19

April 7, 2020

Dear Governor DeSantis:

All 67 Florida counties successfully completed the March 17, 2020 Presidential Preference Primary. However , due to the COVID-19 situation and concerns of the public, Supervisors of Elections encountered significant challenges with polling places becoming unavailable, difficulty in acquiring hand sanitizer and other supplies, and substantial numbers of poll workers deciding not to work, many at the last minute.

In anticipation that these challenges will continue and likely will impact the August 2020 Primary Election and the November 2020 General Election, Florida’s Supervisors of Elections request your assistance through the issuance of an Executive Order modifying current Florida statutory procedures. These changes would give each county the flexibility to best administer the election in their county, based on their specific needs. As counties are preparing and making staffing and logistics decisions now, the flexibility and authority provided as soon as possible would be of great benefit.

We anticipate a significant statewide shortage of poll workers for the 2020 elections. While we anticipate that some level of in-person voting will continue, we believe that based on our March 17, 2020 election, alternatives or additional voting methods must be available to counties. We must also advise you that Florida is not in a position, at this time, to conduct an all-mail ballot election this year. Supervisors of Elections must be made a priority for the acquisition of supplies like hand sanitizer and other resources to ensure in-person voting is in accordance with CDC and FDOH guidelines.

For these reasons, we respectfully request modifications to existing statutory provisions and allow or provide for the following:

    • As provided in your Executive Order Number 19-262 (for Bay and Gulf Counties), suspend applications of provisions of Section 101.657(1)(a) and (b), Florida Statutes, and allow each county Supervisor of Elections to designate additional or alternative Early Voting site locations.
    • Allow counties the option of beginning Early Voting up to 22 days prior to the August and November 2020 elections, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 101.657(l)(d), Florida Statutes, and allow Early Voting to continue, at the chosen locations, through 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.
    • Consistent with Executive Order 19-262, concerning relocation or consolidation of polling places, suspend the provisions of sections 101.001 and 101.71(1), Florida Statutes, which require there to be one polling place in each precinct. This will allow the Supervisor the option to relocate or consolidate polling places with Early Voting sites.
    • Suspend the provisions of section 101.62(4)(b), Florida Statutes and allow the county Supervisors to mail any requested Vote-By-Mail ballots between the 45th and 25th days before the Primary and General Election. Suspend the requirement that the Supervisor mail vote by mail ballots within 2 business days after receipt of a request and allow for 3 business days to mail.
    • Allow counties to begin canvassing and tabulating Vote-By-Mail ballots upon completion of public test in section 101.5612(2), Florida Statutes.

While there may be additional changes necessary for the August and November elections, which will come to our attention and need your assistance, authorizing these provisions at this time will allow us to prepare for more efficient and safe elections. Thank you for your consideration. Please contact me for any questions you may have.


Tammy Jones

President of Florida Supervisors of Elections

Liberty lives in light

(c) 2020 by David Silverberg