When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a controversial elections law in 2021, he blocked all media from covering a signing ceremony, except Fox News, which exalted him during the live segment.

DeSantis’ move was emblematic of how he has treated voting access. His approach is one-sided, meant to appease the conservative voters he’s courting in the 2024 presidential primary – too many of whom still believe the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

His approach isn’t to make it easier for voters to cast ballots, especially if they are voters of color, poor and elderly. Much to the contrary.

If Trump created the “Big Lie,” DeSantis’ actions have advanced it. He’s not necessarily an election denier, and he finally admitted last month that Trump lost in 2020. But voters should look at what he’s done in Florida to understand how a potential DeSantis presidency could approach voter access.

DeSantis might not be in the White House – or ever get there, based on polling – but a case that his administration is arguing in court could have implications for the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a hallmark of the Civil Rights movement that banned discriminatory voting practices.

A President DeSantis would appoint judges and, potentially, Supreme Court justices, allowing him to take cement his vision even further through the judicial system. Beyond what a president can do via official actions, his leadership and words also matter. A president who speaks about voting-rights protections as if they were “woke” special privileges for minorities can push his party to pass restrictive state voting laws, as Trump did after 2020.


Lawyers defending Florida against a lawsuit recently admitted in court that the congressional map DeSantis forced lawmakers to pass violated state safeguards against diminishing Black voting power. The map did away with a majority-Black district in North Florida. The state argues that such protections violate the U.S. Constitution. If that argument is successful, the case could be used to overturn voting protections at a national level, The Miami Herald reported.

On Sept. 2, a federal judge rebuffed the governor’s legal argument and struck down that North Florida district.

The Florida Supreme Court, where DeSantis appointees hold a majority, is expected to decide the case by the end of the year.

Using the courts has been a common strategy by conservatives to reverse hard-fought rights. DeSantis has also used another tool: the immense power states have over elections.

Just hours after Trump won Florida in 2020, DeSantis praised how smoothly the state ran the elections:

“People are actually looking at Florida and asking the question, ‘Why can’t these states be more like Florida?’” he said at a news conference in Tallahassee.


Only months after that statement, the Republican-led Legislature, under the guise of securing elections, restricted Florida’s mail-voting system, which has been a model for the country.

The law DeSantis signed in front of Fox News cameras forced voters to renew their vote-by-mail applications every election cycle, or two years. Previously, those applications were good for four years.

DeSantis signed another law this year increasing fines for third-party voter registration groups that don’t turn in voter forms in time while also giving them less time to do so. He banned noncitizens – even people in the country legally, such as green-card holders – from registering people to vote. Ironically, immigrants with green cards are allowed under federal law to donate money to political campaigns.

This looks like a laser-focused attempt to undermine nonprofit organizations that often register voters in poor and immigrant communities.

Voting restrictions haven’t been unique to Florida since 2020, but DeSantis’ campaign touts the state as a model for the rest of the nation.

What would that look like?

When it comes to encouraging citizens to participate in our democracy, DeSantis’ “Florida Blueprint” would make it harder, not easier.

Comments are no longer available on this story