LDF Files Amicus Brief at the 11th Circuit Defending Election Integrity in Florida
After the 2020 election, Florida enacted Senate Bill 90, an elections omnibus that enhanced Florida’s already strong election integrity policies by adding several integrity reforms while continuing to make it easy for voters to participate in the political process.
After it was enacted, several lawsuits were filed to challenge a handful of S.B. 90’s 32 sections on the grounds that certain provisions placed an unconstitutional burden on the fundamental right to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment. In early 2021, a federal court struck down 3 of the challenged provisions but left the remaining provisions in place. On appeal, two provisions were at issue – SB 90’s drop box and non-solicitation provisions.
LDF filed an amicus curiae brief at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in League of Women Voters v. Florida Secretary of State to highlight just how reasonable S.B. 90’s safeguards for absentee ballot drop boxes are and how Florida is similar to countless other states in preventing electioneering near polling locations.
S.B. 90 added new restrictions to absentee ballot drop boxes to ensure their proper and uniform use throughout Florida, including requiring ballot drop boxes to be continuously monitored by election officials, allowing their accesss only during early voting hours, and permitting their placement only at polling locations. LDF devoted much of Its amicus brief to discuss how Florida’s drop box laws are entirely reasonable compared to other states.
[O]nly half of states, including Florida, statutorily provide some means by which voters may return their completed ballots to a designated drop box. Twenty-six states, including Florida, currently authorize ballot drop boxes by statute, and many of these states only did so very recently. It is worth noting that eight of these states conduct their elections entirely by mail.
Fourteen of these states, including Florida, statutorily require the use of drop boxes. The remaining 12 states authorize election officials to establish drop boxes but do not require them. The infrequently acknowledged truth is that half of states do not statutorily allow election officials to establish drop boxes.
The laws in 18 states simply do not explicitly authorize the use of absentee ballot drop boxes explicitly…Perhaps most significant is how the laws in the six remaining states effectively prohibit the use of absentee ballot drop boxes[.]..
Clearly, Florida cannot somehow be magically violating the law when SB 90 does something that 24 other states do not even statutorily authorize––and 6 of these states prohibit: provide voters the opportunity to return their mail ballots via drop box…
Like Florida, several other states only allow drop boxes at election offices and polling locations. Over a dozen states, including Florida, require drop boxes to be monitored by video surveillance and/or election workers. Almost every state, including Florida, that offers voters the opportunity to return their ballots to a designated drop box requires drop boxes to be physically secured to prevent tampering and bad actors.
S.B. 90 also modified Florida law to prohibit “engaging in any activity with the intent to influence or effect of influencing a voter” within 150 feet of a polling location or drop box. In its brief, LDF highlighted how Florida’s electioneering prohibitions mirror the majority of states that preclude the influencing of voters within a certain zone near the ballot booth:
Every state has in place limitations on political activities in and around polling places while ballots are being cast. These limitations aim to protect the integrity of the electoral process by reducing pressure or undue influence on voters at the voting location. According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures following the 2020 election, 37 states prohibit campaign materials, including signs, banners, and literature near the polling location. Twenty-eight states directly prohibit influencing voters and soliciting votes. Another 15 states prohibit campaign apparel, including buttons, stickers, and placards.
States usually ban these types of activities within 50-200 feet of a polling location to reduce pressure and undue influence on voters. Although states vary in the distances in which solicitation is restricted, 37 states restrict solicitations between 100 and 300 feet of the polling location.
S.B. 90 did not put Florida on the periphery of states concerning these election integrity safeguards. If anything, they brought Florida more in line with the mainstream.
Ultimately, Florida’s reforms are neither new nor unique; they are commonplace election safeguards that have been enacted and upheld for years across the country that seek to meaningfully protect voter participation while safeguarding election integrity. If SB 90’s provisions are improper, the laws of countless other states are as well.
Click here to read LDF’s amicus curiae brief in its entirety.