Florida League of Cities

Elections (Oppose) – PASSED 

CS/CS/SB 524 (Hutson) amends various provisions of the Florida Elections Code. The bill creates the Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State and revises requirements for special officers who may investigate election law violations. It requires County Commissioners of single-member districts to run for election after each decennial redistricting, with staggered terms as provided in section 100.041, except: Miami-Dade County; any noncharter county; any county the charter of which limits the number of terms a Commissioner may serve; and any county in which voters have never approved a charter amendment limiting the number of terms a Commissioner may serve regardless of subsequent judicial nullification. The bill revises retention and information posting requirements for citizens’ initiative petition signature forms and authorizes review of proposed initiative amendment review processes to be halted if the validity of signatures for the petition has expired. It increases criminal penalties for ballot harvesting and crimes involving ballot petition signatures. The bill revises requirements for vote-by-mail ballots by conforming the mailing and canvassing timeframes for all mail ballot elections to those for vote-by-mail ballots in regular elections, effective January 1, 2024. The bill prohibits and preempts the use of ranked-choice voting to determine election or nomination to elective office and voids existing or future local ordinance authorizing the use of ranked-choice voting. The bill expands the prohibition against the use of private donations for elections-related expenses to include any kind of expense, including the costs of litigation related to the election. It amends provisions relating to voter registration by increasing penalties that may be assessed against third-party voter registration organizations for certain actions, including alteration of the voter registration application of any other person without the person’s knowledge or consent. In addition, it increases the frequency for conducting voter list maintenance and adds requirements for providing information about voter registration to the Department of State. In addition, it requires inactive voters to confirm their address of legal residence before being restored to active voter status. The bill expands a criminal penalty for early disclosure of election results. Finally, the bill requires the Department of State to report annually on investigations of election law violations and to submit a plan for using identifying numbers to confirm elector identity before returning a vote-by-mail ballot. CS/SB 524 passed the Senate (24-14) and the House (76-41) and is now awaiting action by the Governor. (O’Hara)