Testimony from:

Matthew Germer, Elections Fellow, R Street Institute

In OPPOSITION to SB 524, “AN ACT relating to election administration.”

February 8, 2022

 

Speaker Sprowls, President Simpson and Members of the Florida Legislature,

Thank you for considering my testimony. My name is Matthew Germer and I conduct research on elections for the R Street Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government across a variety of policy areas, including elections. This is why Senate Bill 524 is of special interest to us.

R Street ardently believes that state legislatures should work to ensure elections are trustworthy, improve the voting experience and maintain local control over election administration. As it happens, Florida is perhaps the most successful state in the country at adhering to these principles. According to research from the James Madison Institute, Florida’s electoral reforms following the 2000 election turned it into “a model for other states.” [1] Unfortunately, the committee substitute to SB 524 throws a wrench into this well-run machine by adding wasteful burdens to absentee voting in Sections 12-19 and by intruding on local control over elections in Section 10. As a result, SB 524 should be amended to remove these sections or set aside.

Maintaining trustworthy elections by verifying voter identity is an important undertaking. Not only does doing so discourage fraud, but it also sends the message that election results are worthy of public trust. Regrettably, the proposed voter identification provisions in Sections 12-19 of the committee substitute, which requires voters to keep track of identification numbers and manage multiple security and certification envelopes, are inefficient and wasteful.

Florida already has one of the best and most trustworthy election systems in the United States. As President Donald J. Trump said in August of 2020: “Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!” [2] Perhaps it is no surprise then that Former President Trump himself chose to vote by mail in 2020. [3] SB 524 may be well-intentioned, but these provisions add unnecessary and wasteful hassle to an already efficient vote-by-mail process. We strongly encourage you to rethink this approach.

More fundamentally, SB 524 pushes against limited-government principles by prohibiting localities from implementing ranked-choice voting (RCV). RCV empowers voters by ensuring that winning candidates have broad support without the inefficiency of run-off elections like those in Louisiana and Georgia. While it is understandable to have some concerns about adjusting the way votes are cast and counted, the conservative approach is to let each locality decide for itself how it will select its leaders.

We encourage Florida to take a similar approach to Utah, which has allowed its localities to experiment with ranked-choice voting to great success. Overwhelming majorities show satisfaction with RCV there. [4] That may be why Republicans like Donald Trump, Jr. have supported efforts to expand the use of RCV and why Republicans in Virginia used RCV to select Glenn Youngkin as their nominee for governor. [5] Alas, SB 524 takes power from local communities by prohibiting them from administering their elections as they see fit. Accordingly, we encourage the legislature to uphold conservative principles and remove this provision from the bill.

Florida has one of the most trustworthy, accessible, efficient and convenient election systems in the nation. It is a state that prides itself on freedom and limited government, recognizing that individuals, families, communities and localities should be empowered to make decisions that they believe best serve their interests. With this recognition and in this spirit, we request the legislature either amend out these provisions that needlessly tamper with the state’s top-flight elections system or place big-government restrictions on local control or set aside the bill altogether.

Thank you for your time,

Matthew Germer
Elections Fellow
R Street Institute
(714) 609-6288
[email protected]

[1] Sal Nuzzo, “Restoring Trust and Security in Florida Elections from Bush v. Gore to Covid-19 2000 – 2020,” The James Madison Institute, June 2021. https://www.jamesmadison.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/PolicyBrief_Elections_Jun2021_v02_print.pdf.

[2] Renzo Downey, “Florida’s vote-by-mail system has Donald Trump’s blessing,” Florida Politics, Aug. 4, 2020. https://floridapolitics.com/archives/354919-floridas-vote-by-mail-system-has-donald-trumps-blessing.

[3] Hannah Morse, “President Trump’s vote-by-mail ballot received by elections office in Florida,” USA Today, Aug. 18, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/08/18/vote-mail-president-donald-trumps-ballot-received-palm-beach/5602671002.

[4] Robert Gehrke, “Polling shows the public liked ranked choice voting, but Robert Gehrke explains why expanding it might be tough,” The Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 15, 2021. https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2021/11/15/polling-shows-public.

[5] Camille Erickson, “Donald Trump Jr. lobbies for Wyoming election runoff bill,” Casper Star Tribune, March 9, 2021. https://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/donald-trump-jr-lobbies-for-wyoming-election-runoff-bill/article_cf7958dc-c140-5a6d-b3d0-aa57bb5c2cd4.html; “Virginia Republicans embrace ranked-choice voting (at least for now),” The Roanoke Times, April 10, 2021. https://roanoke.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-virginia-republicans-embrace-ranked-choice-voting-at-least-for-now/article_6b1bab7a-8ce3-11eb-b0ff-6ba5fcec380a.html.