GOP voting reforms add grandkids to short list of who can help handle mail-in ballots

Credit: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

GOP-sponsored election reforms advancing in the Florida Legislature are growing closer in their details, including who can handle mail-in-ballots for members of a voter’s “immediate family.”

That now includes grandchildren.

In versions awaiting votes in the Senate and House, grandkids were recently added to the limited list of relatives who may pick up and deliver a voter’s mail-in ballot on his or her behalf.

Currently, voters may allow anyone of their choosing to pick up and drop off their mail-in ballots, including neighbors and friends.

In prior versions of the bills, immediate family was defined as the voter’s spouse, parent, child, grandparent, or sibling, with the provision that the voter sign a declaration authorizing that person to handle his or her ballot.

The person picking up or dropping off the ballot on behalf of the voters also would have to sign the declaration and present it for inspection by election workers monitoring the drop-off of ballots.

Mail-in ballots and drop boxes were utilized in record numbers in the 2020 elections and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Election-reform sponsors Sen. Dennis Baxley, a Republican representing parts of Sumter, Marion and Lake counties, and Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Hernando County Republican and former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, say they and their allies want to restrict who can handle someone else’s ballot, to ensure the ballot is completed only by the voter.

Critics, including the association of Florida’s 67 election supervisors, say the restrictions serve no good purpose and make voting unnecessarily difficult for fully qualified voters, especially people who are homebound due to age or health problems.

“It’s concerning that Florida plans to enact changes to the election system that would complicate voting for older Floridians,” said Jeff Johnson, state director of AARP Florida, in a statement last. “AARP opposes any changes to voting laws that create new restrictions or hurdles for older residents.”