Florida gov signs GOP voting law critics call 'un-American'

Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session, Friday, April 30, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session, Friday, April 30, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a wide-ranging list of new voting restrictions into law Thursday, staging a misleading, made-for-TV ceremony meant to tout his credentials on a top priority for the Republican Party's conservative base.

At a live bill-signing event aired exclusively on Fox News, DeSantis said the new law would prevent fraud and restore confidence in Florida's elections — although the state has found no evidence of widespread fraud. The move made Florida the latest GOP-led state to enact tighter voting rules over the objections of Democratic critics who charge the law only makes it harder for people, particularly the elderly and people of color, to vote.

But DeSantis' unusual promotion of the bill — on the GOP-friendly morning show Fox & Friends — demonstrated the rising Republican leader's confidence the new law would only boost his standing.

“Right now I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country,” the governor said.

Florida's new law restricts when ballot drop boxes can be used, and who can collect ballots — and how many. It mandates that drop boxes must be guarded, and available only when elections offices and early voting sites are open. To protect against what Republicans call “ballot harvesting,” someone can only collect and return the ballots of immediate family, and no more than two from unrelated people.

“I’m actually going to sign it right here," DeSantis said as he signed a piece of paper live on television.

A spokesperson for the governor, Taryn Fenske, said later that DeSantis did not sign the actual bill on camera and that the event was purely ceremonial. No other media outlets were advised of the bill signing or allowed in.

Even Fox News appeared taken aback by the stunt. It later issued a statement saying it had booked DeSantis’ appearance on its program “as an interview and not as a live bill signing. Neither the network, nor the show, requested or mandated the event be exclusive to Fox News Media entities.”