Tuesday is the first major election in Florida since the legislature pushed through changes affecting voting in the Sunshine State. Voter advocates say the laws disproportionately affect Black voters — making it harder for many to vote — and have created an environment of confusion and fear, reports the Washington Post. Voters can deliver ballots for immediate family members but there are new forms to fill out, and some worry that even a small mistake could result in a fine or an arrest. It is now illegal to turn in more than two ballots that don’t belong to a close relative. There are new restrictions for organizations that help register voters. And shortly after its inception, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Office of Election Crimes and Security announced deputies had made 20 arrests — 15 of them involving Black voters accused of voting illegally.
The arrested voters were charged with casting ballots even though they did not qualify to vote. A state constitutional amendment gives most people formerly convicted of a felony the right to vote. Several of those arrested say they thought they qualified. They applied to register, got voting cards and were never told they had acted improperly until officers showed up to question them on a summer afternoon. “These laws were put in place to intimidate people, and that’s what’s happening,” LaVon Bracy of Faith in Florida, a religious nonprofit that encourages civic participation. “People are just wondering, is it worth it?”Supporters of the new laws and the election crimes office say these changes are needed to guarantee secure and fair elections — even though there is no evidence of widespread fraud.