Governor Ron DeSantis delivers remarks during a roundtable discussion with theme park leaders about safety protocols and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday, August 26, 2020.
Joe Burbank | Orlando Sentinel | Tribune News Service | Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed into law a sweeping election bill that has drawn accusations it will suppress voter turnout and already faces a legal challenge.
DeSantis signed the bill, SB 90, in a closed-door event that blocked out all reporters and media coverage — except for Fox News, which in a live interview applauded the Republican governor for his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
DeSantis said in a press release that the new voting rules are designed to boost election security. “Floridians can rest assured that our state will remain a leader in ballot integrity,” he said.
However, civil and voting rights groups promptly filed a complaint in federal court alleging the law violates the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The NAACP, Disability Rights Florida and Common Cause argue that the law imposes burdensome identification requirements to vote by mail and severely limits drop boxes among other hurdles, provisions which will negatively impact voters of color and those with disabilities.
“I’m not a fan of drop boxes at all, to be honest with you, but the legislature wanted to keep them,” DeSantis said on Fox.
The governor, who signed the bill inside a Hilton hotel near the Palm Beach airport, was flanked by supporters, who clapped and cheered at his answers in the interview.
Meanwhile, local outlets reported being blocked out of the event.
“News media is barred from entry at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of controversial elections bill,” South Florida Sun Sentinel columnist Steve Bousquet tweeted. “DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske says bill signing is a ‘Fox exclusive.'”
CBS reporter Jay O’Brien said his outlet and others also were “not allowed into the event.”
DeSantis “signed a law today that will impact ALL Floridians. And only some viewers were allowed to see it. That’s not normal,” O’Brien tweeted.
DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment about why no journalists were allowed in the signing room.
Florida is only the latest GOP-led state to push for new voting restrictions. Georgia passed a bill in March that prompted waves of criticism from Democrats, corporate leaders and sports leagues alike. Texas’ legislature was reportedly set to vote Thursday on its own election bill.
Former President Donald Trump, who remains a de facto GOP leader despite his loss to President Joe Biden, has repeatedly cast doubt about the integrity of the 2020 election before and after leaving office. Trump has spread an array of baseless conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud and has falsely asserted he beat Biden.
Top U.S. officials in the Trump administration said the election was secure and that no evidence of widespread fraud had been found that would reverse Biden’s victory.
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming on Wednesday urged her colleagues to reject Trump’s “cult of personality.”
“Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this,” Cheney wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
A growing number of House Republicans, as well as Trump and his allies, now say they no longer support Cheney as a leader.