Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed new voting legislation into law on Thursday. It enacts restrictions on voting by mail and at drop boxes, which Democrats and activists warn could suppress voter turnout.
DeSantis, a Republican, signed the bill, which was passed by the GOP-controlled legislature last month, live on Fox News' "Fox & Friends" during an interview with the show's hosts. Throughout the week, the governor had been holding more formal bill-signing ceremonies across the state as he signed bills into law.
DeSantis argued that the bill protects the "integrity and transparency" of Florida's elections and that after the 2020 election, which was successful, the changes will keep the state "ahead of the curve," echoing the message Republicans have used for months to push back on criticism of their legislation.
"We think this will make it even better as we go forward, so we're proud of the strides we've made, but we're not resting on our laurels," he told Fox News.
The governor has gained prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in conservative circles, where he's seen as one of the top Republicans jockeying for a future presidential bid. Fox & Friends has become a mainstay for Republican politicians, and a show former President Donald Trump has lavished with praise.
Local reporters said that they were not allowed into the event and were told it was exclusive to Fox. DeSantis confirmed later Thursday that he was "happy to give them the exclusive on that."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis not only broke from decades of precedent on Thursday when he blocked all news outlets except Fox News from covering the signing of a voting bill into law. He also may have violated the U.S. Constitution.
That’s the opinion of First Amendment experts who told the Tampa Bay Times it is illegal for DeSantis to hand-pick which media can cover a public proceeding.
“The law leaves no question as to the impropriety of banning certain media while allowing only friendly media,” said Pamela Marsh, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, an organization that advocates for open government and represents news organizations, including the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald. “That is viewpoint and content discrimination.”
Decades of precedent in federal courts have affirmed that elected officials cannot block certain news outlets from reporting on public events just because they don’t like the coverage.
The ink from DeSantis’ signature was barely dry when the League of Women Voters and two other groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, challenging the constitutionality of the new law as it relates to the First and Fourteenth amendments.
In their lawsuit, plaintiffs named all 67 county election supervisors as defendants. That should further expose the truth that the true voting experts in Florida already know: This law is indefensible, makes it harder for people to vote and should be struck down.