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Florida’s DeSantis Bars All Media Except Fox at Voter Suppression Bill Signing

Gov. Ron DeSantis made the signing of the bill, which affects the voting rights of millions, a “Fox exclusive” event.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis responds to a question from the media at a press conference at the Eau Gallie High School aviation hangar in Melbourne, Florida, on March 22, 2021.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law on Thursday imposing new restrictions on voting, such as making it harder to vote by mail and criminalizing the handing out of food and water to people in voting lines.

The governor made the signing of the bill, which would affect millions of voters in his state, a “Fox exclusive,” as a spokesperson said, according to South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Steve Bousquet, allowing only the conservative media outlet to show the signing. DeSantis claimed in an interview with “Fox & Friends” that the bill was about “integrity and transparency” even though voting rights advocates have decried the measures that make it harder to vote, especially for nonwhite voters.

The bill, SB 90, adds new ID requirements for those requesting an absentee ballot and requires those requesting an absentee ballot to file a request before each election, rather than allowing them to remain on an absentee voter list. It also limits the number of ballot drop boxes, places restrictions on who can drop off ballots and requires drop boxes to be monitored by an election official.

Democrats and voting advocates have criticized the law, saying that it places undue restrictions on a voting process that had shown no evidence of widespread fraud.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matters Fund and Florida Alliance for Retired Americans filed a lawsuit against SB 90 on Thursday, saying that multiple elements of the bill, such as banning the handing out of food and water, are unconstitutional and a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Voters from every county in the state also joined the suit.

“SB 90 is a bill that purports to solve problems that do not exist, caters to a dangerous lie about the 2020 election that threatens our most basic democratic values, and, in the end, makes it harder to vote without adequate justification for doing so,” reads the groups’ complaint. “SB 90 does not impede all of Florida’s voters equally. It is crafted to and will operate to make it more difficult for certain types of voters to participate in the state’s elections” — especially nonwhite, older and young or first-time voters.

The bill isn’t about election integrity for Republicans, say the bill’s opponents, but about the continuation of an attack on voting started by former President Donald Trump.

“We are not here because we have a problem with our elections,” said Democratic State Rep. Omari Hardy. “We are here because the Republican former president lost his re-election in November, and, rather than admitting his defeat, he spun a web of lies, radicalized those lies, in an attempt to explain away the loss.” Hardy also described the bill as “the revival of Jim Crow in this state.”

The oppressive nature of the bill was underscored by the fact that the governor wouldn’t allow local news outlets to show the bill’s signing.

“It’s extremely telling that DeSantis claims new Florida voter suppression law intended to boost ‘election integrity’ but barred all media except Fox News from covering bill signing,” wrote Mother Jones reporter Ari Berman on Twitter.

“This isn’t a story about the press being locked out of an event. It’s about Floridians who had their eyes and ears in that room cut off,” wrote Jay O’Brien, a reporter for CBS 12 in West Palm Beach. “Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law today that will impact ALL Floridians. And only some viewers were allowed to see it. That’s not normal.”

Texas is up next for voter suppression bills. The Republican-led HB 6, which would make it a felony for election officials to mail an absentee ballot to a voter who didn’t request one, among other restrictive provisions, advanced to a floor vote on Thursday. Republicans control the House in the state by a wide margin.

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