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Right After Trump Indictment News, Florida GOP Moves To Change Election Law for His Biggest Primary Opponent

DeSanctimonious or just devious?

DES MOINES, IOWA - MARCH 10: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on March 10, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. DeSantis, who is widely expected to seek the 2024 Republican nomination for president, is one of several Republican leaders visiting the state this month.

Yesterday, news broke that a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict former-President Donald Trump. Of the four major open cases against him, this was the least expected to go anywhere. After a week of will-they-won’t-they when Trump teased his arrest, it finally happened. While everyone was celebrating or crying, whistleblower and former Florida resident Rebekah Jones had her eyes on her former home state’s legislature and noticed something odd. The Florida Senate’s Ethics & Elections Committee (E&EC) filed a bill that could change the Republican presidential primary and the trajectory of the 2024 election.

One or more people on the E&EC submitted a temporary draft of SPB 7050 within one hour of the Trump news. Whoever filed this bill will formally introduce it for a first reading at the E&EC meeting on April 4. What’s on the bill itself? Almost nothing. It will probably stay that way until Monday, April 3rd, because it can stay a draft until 24 hours before the meeting.

(PRELIMINARY DRAFT) An act relating to elections; providing legislative intent; providing an effective date.

Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:

Section 1. The Legislature intends to revise laws relating elections.

Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2023.

Why care about an empty bill uploaded to a state senate? Well, other than it’s from Florida. It’s because election law is changing at the same time the Republican frontrunner is being indicted. As previously established, Trump can run while being indicted or serving jail time. However, in theory, this would make it harder for him to win. As it stands, the only person with a serious chance of beating Trump for the Republican nomination is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Trump knows this. He started calling him “Ron DeSanctimonious” on November 5, and later “Meatball Ron” because of this. The main issue for DeSantis is, at the moment, he legally can’t run without giving up his position as the governor of Florida—that is unless the E&EC changes election law …

News of Trump’s indictment broke at approximately 5:30PM ET, and this was filed at 6:08PM.

Florida men fight in a race to the bottom

Currently, Florida election law prohibits candidates from running for another office if the terms would “run concurrently with each other.” Laws like this exist to keep politicians from spending time in one job campaigning for another. Additionally, this limits special elections to fill an empty seat. At the moment, the law disqualifies DeSantis, as his current governor term runs from 2023 to 2027. The 2024 presidential term overlaps, as it runs from 2025 to 2029.

Lucky for DeSantis, leadership in the Florida Republican party has signaled, for months, a willingness to change that rule. According to Politico, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo stated:

If an individual who is Florida governor is running for president, I think he should be allowed to do it. […] I really do. That’s a big honor and a privilege, so it is a good idea.

DeSantis changing election law

DeSantis is no stranger to using cheap tricks to change election rules and solidify power. In the same election he was voted in as Governor, 65% of Florida voters voted “yes” to Amendment 4, which would restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people who did not commit a violent crime. Once elected, DeSantis passed what’s essentially a poll tax disenfranchising these voters by requiring them to pay all past “fines and fees” first.

In 2022, his Secretary of State sent voter ID cards to formerly incarcerated people, leading them to think they could vote. After they did, police arrested those Florida residents. It was so shameful that body cam footage shows even the cops apologetic and uncomfortable. Adding insult to injury, DeSantis hosted a press conference bragging about the seemingly coordinated arrests, calling it the “voter fraud” he’s always whingeing about.

Sure, this E&EC bill could be something else. However, I wouldn’t put it past the Florida GOP to move this forward for DeSantis while eyes are on the indictment. Currently, DeSantis is declaring that Florida law enforcement will not help extradite Trump, as he’s being indicted in New York. Despite the name-calling, the Florida governor has stayed unwaveringly loyal with his head down. Many people already consider DeSantis “Trump without the baggage,” so with Trump tied up in a trial and possibly jail, it behooves the GOP to align with a DeSantis bid and craft the lie/narrative that Trump is just too busy to compete.

(via Rebekah Jones, featured image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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(she/her) Award-winning artist and blogger with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. Starting as an Online Editor for her college paper in October 2017, Alyssa began writing for the first time within two months of working in the newsroom. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3, Apex Legends, and CS:GO. Still trying to beat Saxon Farm on RCT 3 (so I can 100% the game.)