In another incremental step in his bid for the White House, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a bill clarifying that Florida elected officials can remain in office while running for president.
He did so just hours after officially filing paperwork to join the 2024 presidential race, and about two hours ahead of an expected announcement of his presidential run on Twitter with Elon Musk.
The bill, SB 7050, makes a number of sweeping election changes. One clause is the much-watched exemption to the state’s resign-to-run law for presidential and vice presidential candidates, which lawmakers had hinted at last year with DeSantis’ political ambitions in mind.
House Speaker Paul Renner said in November that legislators were looking at possibly changing the law, noting that it was “an honor for someone from Florida to even consider running for president.”
Some legislators, including Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, who sponsored the bill, said the new language wasn’t necessary but was changed to remove any doubt. Hutson said that his interpretation of the earlier law was that candidates could run as long as they weren’t also trying to be reelected. DeSantis is term-limited.
DeSantis was inaugurated for his second four-year term as governor in January.
This isn’t the first time lawmakers have paved the way for a candidate they like; in 2007, lawmakers tweaked the law as then-Gov. Charlie Crist was being considered as running mate for John McCain’s presidential bid.
The elections bill also cracks down on voter registration groups, amping up the maximum fines groups could face for violating laws and shortening their window to turn in applications. Democrats opposing the bill said it unfairly penalizes groups that register a large number of Black and Hispanic voters.
Shortly after DeSantis signed the law, the League of Women Voters of Florida sued in federal court to block some of the bill’s provisions targeting third-party voter registration organizations, claiming they violate the First Amendment.
The lawsuit names Attorney General Ashley Moody and Secretary of State Cord Byrd as defendants.
“Senate Bill 7050 is yet another assault on democracy and attempt to muzzle Floridians,” Cecile Scoon, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said in a statement. “Florida seems intent on making the act of voting nerve-racking.”
A coalition of groups including the Florida NAACP and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans also filed a separate lawsuit against the bill Wednesday evening seeking to knock down its provisions, including restrictions on mail-in ballot requests.
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The governor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.