The claim: Florida banned mass mail-in ballots and 'ballot harvesting,' requires voter ID and added an election police
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis beat Democrat challenger Charlie Christ in the state's gubernatorial race. Some social media users claim the Republican victory was due to certain voting practices in the state.
"Florida BANNED Mass mail-in ballots, BANNED ballot harvesting, REQUIRES voter ID, and Gov. Desantis created an ELECTION POLICE FORCE," reads text in a Nov. 9 Instagram post above a graphic of preliminary results for the gubernatorial race. "Paying attention yet??"
The post's caption reads "Don't let the cheaters cheat!!! These are the landslide victories we would see everywhere in America if there was no more cheating!!! Stop letting the left cheat!!!"
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But the voting descriptions in the post get some of the details wrong.
Contrary to the post's claim, Florida allows all eligible voters to request mail-in-ballots, election experts told USA TODAY. And the state did not "ban" ballot harvesting since there was never any to begin with, though it does allow ballot collection in limited circumstances. It is true, though, that Florida requires voter identification and added an election police force.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Mass mail-in ballots not banned in Florida, experts say
Florida has not banned mass mail-in ballots, contrary to what the post says, according to Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Over one million Florida voters sent in mail-in ballots for the midterms as of October, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. All Florida voters who want to vote by mail must request a ballot to vote, according to the Florida Division of Elections.
DeSantis did sign Senate Bill 90 in 2021, which added requirements for voters choosing to vote by mail. But the legislation did not ban mass mail-in ballots, Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida, told USA TODAY in an email.
Under the legislation, voters must provide a driver's license number, a state-issued ID or the last four digits of their Social Security number when requesting a mail-in-ballot, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. Previously they only had to provide a birthday or signature.
Smith said all registered voters now must also request mail ballots every election cycle. Previously, voters could join a "permanent" mail ballot list and have their ballot sent automatically prior to every election.
And mail-in-voting has not led to any widespread election fraud in Florida – or any state – for that matter, experts told USA TODAY.
Election officials ensure that a voter's signature or labeled identification number on a mailed-in ballot envelope is valid before any ballot is counted, as USA TODAY previously reported. This verification step makes it impossible to submit large batches of fraudulent mail-in ballots to election officials.
Florida voters can collect ballots in limited circumstances
The post uses the term ballot harvesting, which is a pejorative term for taking someone else’s completed ballot and delivering it to an authorized ballot collection site, according to Gerry Langeler, a spokesman for the National Vote at Home Institute.
Smith said the term implies operatives are doing something illegal, but he said "there’s no evidence that groups collecting mail ballots are doing anything illicit; rather, they are merely assisting those who need help returning their ballots."
Florida does, however, allow ballot collection – the more official term – in limited circumstances. It has not been banned.
An individual "may return up to two ballots per election cycle in addition to his or her own ballot or a ballot belonging to an immediate family member" in Florida, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Anyone who possesses more then two vote-by mail ballots per elections can face a felony under DeSantis’ 2021 legislation, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
Experts told USA TODAY ballot collection is safe and secure.
"I am not aware of any credible research that demonstrates this is a major issue or that it has been subject to fraudulent activity," Tammy Patrick, senior advisor to the Elections and Voting program at Democracy Fund, told USA TODAY.
Florida requires voter ID, added an election police force
is correct that Florida requires voters to present an ID, such as a driver's license or Florida identification card, at the polls to vote. This has been a requirement in the state since 1977, according to the Florida Division of Elections.
The post's claim about the election police force is also correct. DeSantis signed legislation in April approving the creation of an “Office of Election Crimes and Security” under Florida’s Department of State to investigate allegations of voter fraud, according to a news release. The law passed after DeSantis was pressured by Republicans to do an audit of the 2020 election, Politico reported.
The office began its work on July 1, CBS News reported. It works closely with investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. DeSantis' April legislation allocated over $2.6 million and 25 positions for the election agency, which is part of the Floriida Department of Law Enforcement, according to Politico.
In August, investigators arrested 20 people who had been disqualified from voting due to convictions for sexual assault or murder but still voted in the 2020 election, according to a press release.
Our rating: Partly false
Based on our research, we rate PARTLY FALSE the claim that Florida banned mass mail-in ballots and ballot harvesting, requires voter ID and added an election police force. Florida allows all eligible voters to request a mail-in-ballot, election experts told USA TODAY. And the state did not "ban" ballot harvesting as there was never any to begin with, though it does allow ballot collection in limited circumstances. It is true though that Florida requires photo ID for voting and added an election police force.
Our fact-check sources:
Gerry Langeler, Nov. 14, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Sylvia Albert, Nov. 14, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Justin Grimmer, Nov. 14, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Tammy Patrick, Nov. 14, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Natalie Scala, Nov. 14, Email exchange with USA TODAY
David Malet, Nov. 14, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Richard Hasen, Nov. 14, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Daniel Smith, Nov. 25, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Tallahassee Democrat, Oct. 21, 2022 Election: More than 1 million Florida voters cast ballots already by mail
University of California, Los Angeles, April 14, 2020, Debunking the myth of voter fraud in mail ballots
AFP Fact Check America, Nov. 15, Posts mislead on Florida voting restrictions
Tallahassee Democrat, July 20, Election 2022: How to vote in Florida under DeSantis' new law. What's changed?
Ron DeSantis, Feb. 19, 2021, Tweet
Center for Public Integrity, Aug. 21, 2016, A review of key states with Voter ID laws found no voter impersonation fraud
Politico, April 25, DeSantis signs bill creating one of the nation’s only election police units
Brennan Center for Justice, accessed Nov. 16, Debunking the voter fraud myth
Florida Division of Elections, accessed Nov. 16, Florida History: Voter ID at the Polls
Florida Senate, accessed Nov. 16, SB 90
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Post misleads on Florida mail voting, 'ballot harvesting'