After Republican Gov. Brian Kemp drew widespread outrage in March for signing Georgia’s controversial voter suppression law behind closed doors—an event that also saw the arrest of a Black lawmaker who knocked on them during the signing—it appears as though Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is ready to one-up him.
According to local reports from Thursday morning, DeSantis prohibited the press from covering a signing ceremony for Florida’s own new voter suppression bill, instead giving Fox News an “exclusive” to the event. The result was every bit as dystopian as you’d imagine.
There was the Florida governor speaking directly to Fox & Friends, where he touted the bill as “the strongest election integrity measure in the country,” before taking pen to paper as a group behind him broke out in applause. Then, as if he had taken stage direction from former President Donald Trump, DeSantis held up the freshly signed legislation for all to behold.
Many observers on social media compared the stunt, which comes as DeSantis continues to attract 2024 presidential buzz, to state-sponsored television.
NEW: News media is barred from entry at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of controversial elections bill, SB 90. DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske says bill signing is a “Fox exclusive” pic.twitter.com/NAos6kmtQS
— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) May 6, 2021
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) just signed the state's new restrictive voting bill live on Fox News (after barring local press from the bill's signing). pic.twitter.com/hR2ZXooABy
— The Recount (@therecount) May 6, 2021
While offering a friendly news outlet exclusive access to a bill signing likely comes with few precedents, Florida’s voter suppression law was enacted against the backdrop of similar legislative initiatives in GOP states across the country, including Arkansas, Utah, and Wyoming, that have enacted extreme bills aimed at rolling back ballot access after Trump’s 2020 election loss. As my colleague Ari Berman reported, in addition to significantly restricting mail-in voting, Florida’s new law, like Georgia’s, bans the distribution of water and food to people in line to vote and includes measures likely to disqualify more ballots.
Florida’s voting rights advocates are already ramping up a fight. Shortly after Thursday’s signing ceremony, three civil rights groups launched a lawsuit against the new law, condemning it as an effort to make it substantially more difficult for minority voters and retirees to cast ballots.