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Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones On The State's New Election Laws

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right. With me now is a Democratic state senator. Shevrin Jones is on the line from West Park, Fla. He represents areas of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Good morning to you, sir.

SHEVRIN JONES: Good morning.

KING: What do you think about this law?

JONES: Well, listen. You know, my Republican colleagues over the past couple of months has praise for election performance as the gold standard. And they did that immediately after the election. The governor - he quickly provided the national narrative, claiming without evidence that fraud and voter irregularities would plague the state without these changes. But yet still, they have shown no proof that this voter fraud that they speak of has actually happened. And - but yet still, this bill was signed into law yesterday, which is unfortunate. And so this adds Florida to a long list of states filing voter restriction legislation at a rate not seen since the days of Jim Crow. In 47 states, 361 bills have been filed that would make it harder for Americans to vote. And these laws have a disproportionate impact on communities of color, our disabled and our elderly and rural white Floridians.

KING: I want to ask you about the restrictions in just a second, but you pointed out this very interesting subtlety in Florida, which is that mail-in ballots have traditionally helped Republicans in that state.

JONES: Right.

KING: And we should note President Trump won the state in 2020. Have you talked to Republican colleagues or Republican constituents who have said to you, this is actually a bad thing for the Republican Party?

JONES: I haven't spoken to Republican constituents, but I did speak to my Republican colleagues during questioning and debate and also in the chambers while a session was going on to let them know that this is going to backfire on you all because it's the Republican Party that is traditionally known to vote by mail. And the reason why they are changing is because over 600,000 Democrats voted by mail this last go-round. And the Republicans are upset about it. But instead of us moving forward and taking the loss and us working along with the White House to - with President Joe Biden to move the state and the country forward, no, they choose to do what? They choose to put more barriers in place in our voting laws. In a lot of the things that we've put in place that they say was wrong with our voting process, it's already in law. And so there was no need for this legislation to be filed in the get-go.

KING: Let's talk about some of the restrictions. This law includes measures like restricting ballot drop box hours and requiring that those drop boxes be guarded. Now, I remember voting and dropping my ballot off in a drop box. It was very easy. How does this in Florida make it harder? And what does that mean in terms of who turns out to vote?

JONES: Yeah, so the limiting of the drop box is - the more specific problem with that is now there's a time limit. In the last election, the drop boxes were 24 hours, where individuals had the ability to drop off their ballots because we know in Florida, people work all hours of the night and especially blue-collar workers, especially like the ones in my district. The 9 to 5 timeframe in which we have now put into law is going to disproportionately affect individuals who are blue-collar workers from voting or even putting their mail in this drop box. And then guarding those drop boxes, you're adding an extra resource on the supervisor of elections. But not only that. It also prohibits anyone not a supervisor of election or an official volunteer from the office from even administering a single drop of water or morsel of food to voters trapped in long, hot voting lines, knowing that we live in Florida. And so all of these restrictions is nothing but a total outlook of what is happening across the state, across the country in all of these other states who - all they're doing is creating these barriers.

KING: The thing I want to clarify with you, sir, is I thought that the Republicans stripped the language out about not letting people offer food and water to folks standing in line. Didn't they take that language out of the law?

JONES: So they did take that portion out of the law. But what they did - they still left a provision in there of the no-solicitation zones. And they moved it from 100 feet to 150 feet. The problem is that in certain areas like in Miami, well, that 150 feet put individuals out by the road. And so, yeah, it's just - that portion of the law just wasn't thought through.

KING: OK. What are Democrats in the state planning to do now that this law has been signed? What's your response to this?

JONES: Well, I'm happy to see that the NAACP and other groups - they have already filed a federal lawsuit to let it be known that, I mean, this is impeding on the voting of Floridians. And I'm looking forward to the day in court where that goes and allow the courts to make it known that Florida is doing and what all of these states are doing is wrong, is wrong on its surface.

KING: Democratic state senator from Florida Shevrin Jones. Thank you, sir, for being with us. We appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.