Just hours before formally launching his presidential campaign, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that might rescue him from a court struggle.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Florida Republican and likely Republican nominee in 2024 signed sweeping GOP-backed reforms, including language suspending Florida’s “resign to run” law, which requires statewide officials seeking higher office to resign before running for office.
The Republican-dominated state legislature, which is closely aligned with DeSantis, had presumably been pushing the bill through the state legislature in preparation for the governor’s anticipated presidential bid, which was set to formally launch Wednesday afternoon in a streamed event on Twitter.
Earlier that day, DeSantis’ campaign formally filed papers with the Federal Election Commission cementing his run and placing him on a likely collision course with frontrunner Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the passage of Senate Bill 7050 resolves an early issue confronting his campaign’s launch: the threat of a lawsuit from his political opponents.
While Democrats who opposed the law said that the governor should not be given special treatment, some believed that DeSantis may be sued for declaring his race before signing the bill. Other legal experts, however, believe DeSantis could not have been sued since he did not resign as governor until he was properly ready to run for president. Experts told Newsweek earlier this week that announcing has no bearing on one’s legal status.
“The amendments to the resign-to-run laws in Florida create an exception for individuals who hold office in Florida who run for the presidency or vice-presidency,” Michael McAuliffe, an elected state attorney in Florida and former federal prosecutor, told Newsweek earlier this week. “The resign-to-run restrictions in Florida likely are tied to candidates ‘qualifying’ for office; as a result, the new amendments will be the law when DeSantis qualifies as a presidential candidate in the future.”
There is still room for improvement. Florida could be sued for other aspects of Senate Bill 7050, which includes sweeping reforms to the state’s elections systems, such as imposing greater voter identification requirements, shorter deadlines on voter registration forms, and restrictions on who is allowed to assist with voter registration drives, among other reforms.
“We should be breaking down barriers to voting, but this bill does nothing to help voters,” Kirk Bailey, political director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement criticizing the bill earlier this month. “Our efforts should focus on protecting voters by getting rid of voter registration deadlines to expand participation in our democracy. Instead, we’re penalizing organizations that encourage people to vote.”
At least one person has already threatened to sue over the bill. “If and when DeSantis signs this voter suppression bill, Florida will be sued,” Democratic elections attorney Marc Elias tweeted earlier this month.