DeSantis signs bill that makes his presidential run easier


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday flicked away a nagging threat to his emerging campaign for president by signing into law a measure that makes it clear he does not have to resign his current position as governor.

The change to Florida’s resign-to-run law, which had garnered a ton of debate and legal theorizing in the last few months, was part of a larger overall elections bill approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature that has drawn the scorn of Democrats and voting rights groups who have labeled it “voter suppression.”

Two lawsuits were immediately filed in federal court challenging the law. One was filed by the League of Women Voters of Florida while a coalition of several groups, including the Florida State branch of the NAACP, also filed a legal challenge. They took aim at several portions of the bill that placed new restrictions and increased fines on groups that register new voters.

DeSantis signed the bill, S.B. 7050, on the same day he filed paperwork and officially started his campaign for president.

One of the bill sponsors, state Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills), had suggested that a tweak to the state’s resign-to-run law was not needed. But by acting now, Florida Republicans removed a potential legal challenge to DeSantis’ candidacy if he winds up becoming the GOP nominee for president.

Florida law requires anyone running for a new office to submit an irrevocable letter of resignation ahead of qualifying if the terms of the two offices overlap. The law had been changed twice in the past two decades, including once to help then-Gov. Charlie Crist when he was a potential nominee for vice president.

The new law makes it clear that someone running for president and vice president does not have to comply with the resign-to-run provision which remains intact for candidates running for Congress.

But the elections bill covers much more than just than the state’s “resign-to-run” law, which had prompted some voting rights groups to unsuccessfully ask DeSantis to veto the legislation.

The lengthy bill, for example, requires a new disclaimer on voter registration identification cards that explains the receipt of the card does not mean they are eligible to vote. Last year, the state arrested 20 people for voter fraud for illegally voting, but several of those charged said they thought they could vote because they had gotten a card from their local elections supervisor.

The measure also makes changes to when mail-in ballots can be easily requested and requires election supervisors to discard mail-in ballots if two are placed in the same return envelope. It requires third party voter registration groups to give a receipt to an applicant and shortens the time applications must be turned over to election officials. There are restrictions on who can work for the groups and fines are greatly increased for violations.

“Florida seems intent on making the act of voting nerve-racking,” said Cecile Scoon, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida in a statement about the group’s new lawsuit. “We are forced to turn to the courts to ensure nonpartisan community-based voter registration organizations, like the League, can continue their important work of registering voters and ensure voters have equal and meaningful access to the ballot box.”