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At an event on Thursday that banned all local media outlets except for Fox News, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a controversial elections overhaul bill that imposes sweeping new restrictions on voting.

Why it matters: The law increases restrictions on drop boxes, requires voters to sign up for mail-in ballots every year and limits who can drop off ballots at drop boxes.

  • It also prevents campaign volunteers and third-party groups from "engaging in any activity with the intent to influence or effect of influencing a voter," which could deter food and water from being provided to voters in line.
  • Opponents say the law will make it more difficult to vote in the state, and will disproportionately impact communities of color.

What they're saying: With a cheering crowd behind him, DeSantis told Fox & Friends in an "exclusive" broadcast that he believes the law includes the "strongest election integrity measures in the country."

  • "Me signing this bill here says, 'Florida, your vote counts. Your vote is going to cast with integrity and transparency, and this is a great place for democracy,'" DeSantis said.
  • The event was billed as a rally "for the best governor in the USA." It's unclear if it was an official governor's event or campaign rally, per the Washington Post.

Emily Bloch, president of the Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, said in a statement on Twitter: "Signing a law into office isn’t supposed to be an ‘exclusive,’ since the law itself isn’t exclusive."

  • "Actions like this openly defy against a free press. We condemn DeSantis’ office barring journalists from doing their job for the sake of good TV.”

The big picture: Florida is one of a number of Republican-run states — including Georgia, which has faced intense backlash — that have either passed or are considering new voting restrictions after the 2020 election.

  • Many of the laws are based on unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud propagated by former President Trump.
  • Hundreds of corporations and voting rights groups have embarked on a pressure campaign to stop the laws from taking effect.

Go deeper ... Mapped: Which states are weighing voting changes

Go deeper

Aug 12, 2021 - Health

Over 800 physicians call on DeSantis to repeal anti-mask order in schools

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 800 physicians signed a letter on Thursday calling on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to repeal an executive order that prohibits local officials from requiring masks in school.

Driving the news: The Republican governor is threatening to withhold pay from superintendents and school board members who mandate face masks in schools, even as Florida experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven by the Delta variant.

1 dead, 14 injured in shooting at Kroger grocery store near Memphis

One person was killed and 14 others were injured Thursday in a shooting at a Kroger grocery store in Collierville, Tenn., near Memphis, the town's spokesperson Jennifer Casey said, per CNN.

What they're saying: "I've been involved in [police work] for 34 years and I have never seen anything like [this]," Police Chief Dale Lane said at a press conference.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC panel recommends Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A key panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people 65 years old and older, as well as those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: The approval is the near-final step in making the booster shots available to tens of millions of Americans, and comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer boosters for the two groups. CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to announce her recommendation soon.