TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — When Governor Ron DeSantis signed the new voting law in May in an exclusive ceremony on Fox News, he touted its integrity and transparency.
New text messages between two state lawmakers show there may have been other motivations at play.
The new law reduces the time a voter’s request for a mail ballot is valid, from two election cycles (every four years) to one cycle. The Senate proposal would have canceled mail ballot requests, forcing Florida voters to re-request a mail ballot ahead of the state’s crucial 2022 elections, which include races for governor and senator.
In a text message exchange between Fla. Sen Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) and Fla. Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Hernando) — the current and former chairmen of the Republican Party of Florida, respectively — Gruters tells Ingoglia that the Florida House caving on that element of the bill will be “devastating.”
“We cannot make up that ground,” Gruters said. “Putting at risk all Republican nonpartisan candidates.”
The text messages were first reported by POLITICO “as part of an ongoing lawsuit by several groups — including the League of Women Voters of Florida — challenging the newly-enacted law.”
Democrats balked at the law, specifically pointing to the changes to mail ballot requests as evidence of voter suppression.
“I feel vindicated, and I don’t take any pleasure in saying that,” said Fla. Rep. Michele Rayner Goolsby (D-Pinellas). “We have the governor saying this was the safest, most secure election in the last 20 years, that Florida should be a beacon to the rest of the United States. And really we understand now it was to suppress and chill Democratic votes, and black and brown folks.”
Neither Gruters nor Ingoglia returned 8 On Your Side’s request for interview or comment.
“I was very clear from the beginning that I thought the (then) current policy of two election cycles was too long,” Ingoglia said in a public statement provided by the Florida House communications director. “I was also clear, from the beginning, that the House’s position was to move it to one election cycle. I was on record for this well before any text message was received. This was a policy decision all along and had nothing to do with partisan reasons.”
Watch Battleground Florida with host Evan Donovan every Sunday morning at 9:30 on WFLA News Channel 8, right before Meet the Press.