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DeSantis signs controversial elections bill in West Palm Beach

Gov. DeSantis signs the controversial elections bill in West Palm Beach on May 6, 2021. (WPEC)
Gov. DeSantis signs the controversial elections bill in West Palm Beach on May 6, 2021. (WPEC)
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Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Florida elections bill in West Palm Beach on Thursday under a cloud of controversy.

Doors opened at the Hilton by Palm Beach International Airport at 7 a.m. for what is called "The Best Governor in the USA" event.

The governor signed the new law that will change the way Florida’s mail-in voting works.

“Florida took action this legislative session to increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Floridians can rest assured that our state will remain a leader in ballot integrity. Elections should be free and fair, and these changes will ensure this continues to be the case in the Sunshine State."

The bill adds ID requirements for voters requesting to vote by mail. Drop boxes for ballots will see big changes under the bill. They would have to be at permanent locations, open at certain hours, and would have to be staffed by an employee from the election supervisor's office.

This Hilton was chosen for the event because it's where the governor announced that this bill is a top priority for him. That announcement was overshadowed by the event itself due to the fact it was in February and no one was wearing a mask.

The eyes of Florida voters were not be able to see the bill signing event. No local media cameras were allowed, a move which sparked outrage from a number of leaders across the state.

"This is the difference between @GovRonDeSantis and me," Representative Charlie Crist wrote on Twitter. "He locks out the public and caters to FOX News. When I was Governor, everyone was invited in -- Democrats, Republicans; and Independents. And when I'm Governor again, this will be a Florida for all."

Gov. DeSantis told CBS12 News reporter Danielle Waugh the event wasn't held in secret. "It was on national news," he said.

The Governor later defended the Fox News exclusive at a news conference in Panama City. He told a reporter: "It was live on national television on Fox and Friends and we were happy to give them the exclusive on that...That's broadcast to millions of people across the country and a huge amount of people in Florida."

See also: Fried calls DeSantis a 'dictator' for signing voter suppression bill

State Senator Gayle Harrell, a Republican from Stuart, was inside the private event. She told CBS12 News that carrying out the bill signing in that way was "the governor's option, and the bill is signed. And the fact that [the press] is here and you know it's signed, is the important thing."

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