Florida’s Governor signs new voting restrictions into law as Republicans rush to align with Trump’s false claims of fraud | Amy Gardner and Lori Rozsa/The Washington Post

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday enthusiastically embraced former president Donald Trump’s demand for tougher election laws, signing into law a slew of new voting restrictions in a staged live broadcast despite previously touting how smoothly his state’s elections ran last fall. DeSantis (R) hailed the measure as necessary to shore up public faith in elections, but critics accused him of trying to make it harder to vote, particularly for people of color. His signing of the bill, which he delivered live on the Fox News morning program “Fox & Friends,” makes Florida the latest GOP-controlled state to impose new voting hurdles, following Georgia, Montana and Iowa. The Texas House took up a similar measure later Thursday, and other states including Arizona, Michigan and Ohio are considering their own bills. DeSantis offered a string of justifications for the law, claiming it would prevent ballot “harvesting” and the stuffing of ballots into unmonitored drop boxes — though such practices were already prohibited in the state and there is no evidence they occurred last year. “We’re not going to let political operatives go and get satchels of votes and dump them in some drop box,” the governor said. DeSantis’s vigorous support for the new law, which he arranged to showcase exclusively on Fox News’s signature morning show, is the latest example of the GOP’s rush to align with Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was marred by fraud. Even as some Republicans have privately lamented Trump’s false statements that Joe Biden did not win the election, few have been willing to say so publicly — and those who have are facing swift blowback.

Full Article: Florida voting restrictions: Gov. DeSantis signs new restrictions into law – The Washington Post

Florida: Election reforms targeting voting by mail, drop boxes passes Legislature | Lawrence Mower/Tampa Bay Times

The Florida Legislature approved along party lines a multitude of changes to the state’s elections laws Thursday night, including a ban on possessing multiple vote by mail ballots and restrictions on the use of ballot drop boxes. Relenting on a number of ideas that were strongly opposed by county elections supervisors and Democrats, the bill now heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk is far less onerous than what Republicans were proposing over the last month. The bill does not ban drop boxes, an idea DeSantis endorsed earlier this year. It does not require someone show an I.D. when leaving a vote by mail ballot in a drop box, which elections supervisors warned would have created long lines. It also does not include the strict signature-comparison requirements for validating vote by mail ballots that some feared would require millions of Floridians to update their signatures with their county elections office.

Full Article: Election reforms targeting voting by mail, drop boxes passes Florida Legislature

Florida: ‘Never heard of them’: Arizona GOP audit firm unknown even in home state | Marc Caputo/Politico

A successful ninja is unseen, unheard, stealthy. By that standard, the firm Cyber Ninjas — which Arizona Republicans chose to audit the ballots cast in 2020 in the Phoenix area — fits the bill: Almost no one involved in election or politics in Florida, the state where the company is headquartered, seems to have heard of it or knows anything about it. Nor do they know anything about Cyber Ninjas’ founder, Doug Logan, who registered his firm in the southwest Florida city of Sarasota in 2014, state records show. “Doug Logan? Cyber Ninjas? No. I don’t know these guys. Never heard of them,” said Christian Ziegler, vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida and a resident of Sarasota, echoing a dozen top Florida Republicans and elections professionals interviewed by POLITICO. The firm’s relative anonymity is a curious anomaly in Florida, one of the nation’s biggest battlegrounds, where top political players are typically familiar with companies that provide election services and technology. In a state like Florida — a place synonymous with razor-close elections and recounts for more than two decades — Cyber Ninjas’ absence of name identification and its lack of experience in election audits among insiders stands out. And it calls into question Arizona Republicans’ claim that the company is right for the controversial job of auditing the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, which encompasses the Phoenix metro area. The 2020 presidential results there have drawn national attention as a result of baseless claims of election fraud.

Full Article: ‘Never heard of them’: Arizona GOP audit firm unknown even in home state – POLITICO

Florida voting restrictions bill advances in state legislature | Tal Axelrod/The Hill

A bill that would impose new voting restrictions in Florida cleared a key hurdle Tuesday after it was approved in a state Senate committee, setting up a possible floor vote on the legislation in the coming weeks. The bill, known as S.B. 90, passed the Senate Rules Committee by a 10-7 vote, with only one Republican joining every Democrat in opposing it. The legislation was rolled back to eliminate some of the most stringent restrictions, including a ban on drop boxes and a requirement for there to be a physical signature on file rather than digital signature for identification verification. It still includes additional identification requirements for absentee voting, new powers for observers to oversee vote tabulation, limits on who can drop off ballots and new requirements for voters to request absentee ballots. Republicans have said the bill is necessary to ensure the state’s elections are secure, though no fraud was found in any of Florida’s 2020 races. “Things could happen,” state Sen. Dennis Baxley, who introduced the legislation, said Tuesday when discussing the possibility of fraud. Critics have lambasted the bill as a solution without a problem, rebutting GOP arguments about election security and highlighting a lack of local support for fears of fraud. “I need to put on the record that to my knowledge, not one Republican supervisor of elections in the state of Florida supports this bill in its current form,” said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, the lone Republican on the Rules Committee to vote against the legislation.

Full Article: Florida voting restrictions bill advances in state legislature | TheHill

Florida: Controversial ballot law heads to House floor | Renzo Downey/Florida Politics

The Florida House could soon vote on a measure Republicans say would increase election security, particularly around drop boxes. By a 16-8 vote, the House State Affairs Committee gave the final preliminary approval before the full House could consider the controversial bill (HB 7041). Democrats contend the stricter voting laws would make it harder for voters to use drop boxes. “We have 45 days of voting in the state Florida, three ways of voting,” Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the Spring Hill Republican carrying the bill, told the committee. “Anyone who says we’re restricting access to the ballot, I’m sorry, it’s just not accurate.” The bill comes despite Republicans, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, touting Florida’s 2020 election cycle as one of the smoothest and most secure in recent history. Ingoglia helped spearhead the state’s original drop box law, first used during the 2020 election cycle. “We should use every election as an opportunity to look back and identify things that we can do better,” Ingoglia said. Similar to a new election law that has come under fire in Georgia, the Spring Hill Republican’s bill would prevent people from attempting to influence a person’s vote within 150 feet of a drop box or polling place entrance. That would include a candidate handing out food or water to voters standing in line. Voting sites could only keep boxes available to the public during voting hours, and boxes must always be monitored by Supervisor of Elections personnel during those hours. During off-hours, offices could use security cameras to monitor secured boxes.

Full Article: Controversial ballot law heads to House floor

Florida strips language from bill effectively banning voters from being given food and water in line | Ben Kamisar/NBC

Florida lawmakers have backtracked on legislative language that threatened to ban giving voters food or drink while near a polling place, removing the ban from an amended version of an elections bill that was approved by a House committee on Thursday. The original version of House bill 7041 forbade “giving or attempting to give any item” to a voter or “interacting or attempting to interact” with a voter within 150 feet of a polling place. But an amended version of the bill, approved by the state House Appropriations Committee, no longer includes either prohibition. However, the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, argued that while the specific language is gone, it’s possible that handing out food and water could run afoul of the bill’s ban on “engaging in any activity with the intent to influence or effect of influencing a voter.” Ingoglia raised the example of a well-known politician, like Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, handing out food and water to voters without specifically asking for a voter’s support. “If Ron DeSantis started walking up and down the line, handing out stuff to voters in line within the 150 feet, I’d dare to say your nominee would say he was trying to influence the vote,” he said.

Full Article: Florida strips language from bill effectively banning voters from being given food and water in line

Florida Republicans considering new election bill that would effectively ban giving voters water | Jane C. Timm/NBC

Florida Republicans are considering a bill that would effectively make it a crime to give voters food or drink, including water, within 150 feet of polling places. According to the text of an elections bill introduced last week, state law currently prohibits offering voters assistance within 100 feet of polling locations; H.B. 7041 proposes expanding that zone to 150 feet and includes a prohibition on giving “any item” to voters or “interacting or attempting to interact” with voters within that zone. State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican from Spring Hill, said in a committee meeting last Monday that the ban would include “food or beverages.” The proposal is similar to a measure in Georgia’s sweeping new election law that bans giving water, food or gifts to voters waiting in line, among many other restrictions. President Joe Biden, in condemning Georgia’s law as “outrageous” and “Jim Crow in the 21st Century,” singled out that provision as evidence of suppressive intent in a state he flipped blue for the first time in decades. “If you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency, they pass a law saying you can’t provide water for people standing in line while they’re waiting to vote,” he said on Friday. Georgia Republicans have said the state’s election laws needed tightening to improve voter confidence. For years, campaigns and other groups have distributed water, sent food trucks and had pizza delivered to voters waiting in long lines to cast a ballot. Amid a nationwide effort by Republican lawmakers to tighten voting laws in the wake of an election their nominee lost, the practice has come under fire.

Full Article: Florida Republicans considering new election bill that would effectively ban giving voters water

Florida: ‘Suppression’ or ‘security’? Uproar over GOP’s ‘rollback of voting rights’ | Dara Kam/Orlando Sentinel

Four months ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis bragged that other states should emulate voting procedures in Florida, where former President Donald Trump’s solid Election Day victory over President Joe Biden was done and dusted long before midnight. But the Republican governor, who will be on the ballot next year, and GOP legislative leaders are pushing changes to the state’s election process that Democrats are branding as “voter suppression,” county election officials “vehemently” oppose and experts say will “disproportionately” harm Black and Hispanic voters. “I have heard of no supervisors who are in support of this bill,” Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley told a Senate committee last week, before the Republican-controlled panel approved a measure that would make wide-ranging changes to voting by mail. State GOP leaders’ push to amend the elections process mimics efforts underway in other Republican-led states following Trump’s re-election defeat in November. Trump and his followers have repeatedly alleged that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen,” a claim without merit.

Full Article: ‘Suppression’ or ‘security’? Uproar over Florida GOP’s ‘rollback of voting rights’ – Orlando Sentinel

Florida: Mail ballots of minority, young voters initially rejected at higher rate, study shows | Lawrence Mower/Miami Herald

Mail ballots submitted by minority voters and young people were initially rejected at a higher rate than other groups in Florida’s 2020 presidential election, but most were able to resolve the errors, a new study by University of Florida professor Dan Smith found. The ballots of younger voters were more than three times as likely as older voters to be initially rejected for signature issues, such as not including a signature on the outside of their ballot or the signature not matching the one on file with the county elections supervisor, according to the study. And the ballots of racial and ethnic minority voters who voted by mail were over 60% more likely than white voters to be initially rejected. The rejection rates were inconsistent across the state’s 67 counties, however, indicating that the problems were not necessarily the fault of the voters. “Why were these ballots cast by younger voters or Black and Hispanic voters being flagged for rejection at a much higher rate?” Smith wondered. “What is going on in that process?” The study, which Smith performed on behalf of the voting rights group All Voting is Local, looked at the 4.6 million vote-by-mail ballots received by county elections officials by the Nov. 3, 2020, deadline.

Full Article: Study: Ballots of minority, young voters rejected at high rate | Miami Herald

Florida: Voting by mail was a success, so why do Florida Republican legislators want to make it harder? | Mary Ellen Klas/Miami Herald

Bypassing the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” question, Florida Senate Republicans agreed Tuesday that Florida’s vote-by-mail process worked smoothly in the last election cycle but still needed a change. They want to erase all standing requests for mail-in ballots in 2022 and require voters to start over. “It’s not that big of a change. Some people are nervous about change,” said Sen. Dennis Baxley, a Republican from Ocala who sponsored the bill. “Why not try this? It may invigorate participation.” After a record 4.8 million Floridians voted by mail in November, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee approved SB 90 along party lines to limit vote-by-mail applications to one election cycle and require everyone who signed up for mail ballots in 2020 to reapply to get them in 2022. Current law allows voters who ask for a mail-in ballot to have their request remain current for two general election cycles unless they opt out. The bill also moves up the starting time for counting vote-by-mail ballots from 22 days before an election to 35-40 days before an election, putting into statute a portion of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order from 2020. The change to the mail-in ballot dates was opposed by both Democrats and Florida’s nonpartisan election supervisors, who last week warned lawmakers about tinkering with Florida’s election laws after the state conducted the first election in years that wasn’t marred by problems.

Source: Florida Republicans vote to add hurdle for mail-in voting | Miami Herald

Florida civic groups settle lawsuit with counties to require ballots in Spanish | Bianca Padro Ocasio/Miami Herald

Latino civic engagement groups settled a 2018 class action lawsuit with 31 Florida counties on Monday that will require all Florida counties to make Spanish-language ballots, voting materials and a voter assistance hotline available in all elections for the next 10 years. The settlement, filed Monday, is the conclusion of a years-long legal fight from voting rights organizations who alleged some Florida counties were not complying with Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, when they failed to provide Spanish-language ballots to voters who had moved to Florida from Puerto Rico and were not fluent in English. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that Florida counties that did not have Spanish-language materials were largely excluding Puerto Rican voters, who are U.S. citizens, thousands of whom relocated en masse to different parts of the Sunshine State after Hurricane Maria upended the lives of residents on the island in 2017. “Until we brought this lawsuit, vast parts of Florida still ran English-only elections,” said Stuart Naifeh, senior attorney for the policy research firm Demos, one of the groups that sued the group of Florida counties. “The right to vote is an empty right if you can’t vote in a language you understand and we’re very pleased with the settlement that was reached in the last week.” Among the other election requirements included in the settlement: Spanish-language vote-by-mail ballots and request forms, Spanish-language secrecy envelopes and instructions, translation of election supervisors’ official websites and Spanish-language signs at supervisors’ offices.

Full Article: Latino groups settle lawsuit on bilingual ballots in Florida | Miami Herald

Florida: Disgraced Republican lawmaker planted no-party candidate in key Senate race, sources say | Ana Ceballos and Samantha J. Gross/Miami Herald

The confession came on election night. Over drinks at an Irish pub in Seminole County, as television screens began to show the latest election results for key state Senate races, former Miami state Sen. Frank Artiles was getting excited. Miami Republican Ileana Garcia, a first-time candidate, was leading Democratic incumbent Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez in the race to represent Miami-Dade’s Senate District 37. It was tight, but she was winning. And Artiles wanted to brag. “That is me, that was all me,” Artiles told a crowd at Liam Fitzpatrick’s restaurant in Lake Mary, where Sen. Jason Brodeur was holding his election night party, according to a person who was there and who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. “He was so loud,” the person said. Artiles boasted that he planted a no-party candidate in the Miami-Dade Senate race, which Garcia won after a three-day recount by just 32 votes out of more than 215,000 cast. Artiles recruited Alexis (Alex) Rodriguez, a longtime acquaintance and Facebook friend. Sources with direct knowledge have indicated that Artiles’ involvement in launching Rodriguez’s bid was extensive. When asked by the Herald about his involvement in the no-party candidate’s race Thursday, Artiles did not respond. Numerous attempts to reach him by phone and text messaging Monday and Thursday were unsuccessful. The no-party candidate with the same surname as the incumbent Democrat had been a registered Republican until just before his qualifying papers were filed to make him a candidate for the Florida Senate. He received 6,382 votes in the election.

Full Article: Frank Artiles behind no-party candidate in FL Senate race | Miami Herald

Florida: Republican election official rips ‘baseless’ and ‘destructive’ voter fraud conspiracies | Steve Contorno/Tampa Bay Times

Brian Corley, the Pasco County Supervisor of Elections and a Republican, issued a blistering condemnation on Wednesday of the “baseless claims and misinformation intent upon undermining the election results” that have emanated from his party in the last month. In a lengthy statement, Corley called on Americans to accept the results of “the most secure, transparent election in history.” As Corley made clear, that result is that Joe Biden is the president-elect and will be sworn into office Jan. 20. “It’s time to stop the destructive rhetoric and to stop prioritizing politics at the expense of our country’s founding principles,” Corley said in the statement. Corley was compelled to speak, he wrote, after watching Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling on Tuesday plead for President Donald Trump to stop inflaming conspiracies about the election. In a speech that has been watched by millions of people in the past 24 hours, Sterling warned that “someone is going to get killed” if Trump doesn’t back away from the baseless attacks on voting, election workers and Republicans who dare to suggest he lost.

Full Article: Republican election official in Florida rips ‘baseless’ and ‘destructive’ voter fraud conspiracies

Florida: Did mail delays lead to more late-arriving ballots? The opposite, counties say | Aaron Leibowitz/Tampa Bay Times

Florida voters had plenty of reasons to question the reliability of voting by mail in the Nov. 3 election. The U.S. Postal Service was delivering ballots at delayed speeds, and thousands of ballots were flagged for signature issues that disproportionately affect young and minority voters. With people voting by mail in record numbers due to COVID-19, rejected ballots had the potential to become Florida’s “hanging chads” of 2020. But that hasn’t come to pass. In fact, early data from some of the state’s largest counties suggests efforts by local elections supervisors, voters and advocates helped drive down the number of ballots received after Florida’s 7 p.m. Election Day deadline. In Miami-Dade County, elections officials told the Miami Herald that, as of Monday, 648 ballots had arrived after the deadline, meaning they won’t count in the general election. In the August primary, even though about 250,000 fewer mail ballots were cast, 4,691 ballots arrived after the deadline — more than seven times as many as in November. Suzy Trutie, the deputy supervisor of elections for Miami-Dade, said she attributes the low number of late ballots to the department’s education efforts about sending in ballots with time to spare. She also pointed to the use of drop boxes at early voting sites, which accounted for about one-third of all mail ballots cast in the county.

Full Article: Did mail delays lead to more late-arriving ballots? The opposite, Florida counties say

Florida: Here’s how post-election audits work in Florida | Allison Ross/Tampa Bay Times

Most counties do a manual audit, in which elections workers hand count all the votes cast in up to 2 percent of the precincts for one randomly selected race. The numbers tallied by elections workers are then compared to the official results originally produced by the vote-counting machines. Ballots that were cast by mail, on Election Day, during early in-person voting and provisionally are all included in this audit, as are any ballots that came in from overseas voters. “It’s labor-intensive, but worth it, from my perspective,” said Brian Corley, supervisor of elections in Pasco County. He said these audits help give county residents confidence in the elections process, saying he’s found that residents like that he and his staff are physically touching and counting ballots to ensure the accuracy of machine counts. Julie Marcus, supervisor of elections in Pinellas County, said audits are the final step in making sure voting systems are accurate. She said Pinellas County “has had perfect audits since audits were implemented in 2008.”

Full Article: Here’s how post-election audits work in Florida

Florida: Where’s the drama? Not in Florida, and that’s fine with elections officials | Allison Ross/Tampa Bay Times

Thanks in part to the tumultuous 2000 presidential election of Bush v. Gore, the Sunshine State has long been — often unfairly, sometimes deservedly so — a punchline or cautionary tale of election woes. But in this year’s presidential race, voting ran smoothly in Florida’s 67 counties. With 29 key electoral votes up for grabs in a fraught election, Florida’s counties tabulated and shared results within hours after the polls closed. As other states — Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia — found themselves under the national glare and mounting partisan pressure as they tabulated results, Florida officials exchanged congratulatory tweets. “Florida is a model for the rest of the nation to follow,” Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted Wednesday afternoon, thanking elections officials and poll workers for their hard work. Florida’s elections rules, many created after the 2000 meltdown, put officials in prime position to conduct a presidential election during a pandemic.

Full Article: Where’s the drama? Not in Florida, and that’s fine with elections officials

Florida election officials say 2020 won’t be a repeat of 2000 – Here’s what has changed since the 2000 and 2018 recounts | Skyler Wisher/South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Two years ago, a federal judge called Florida the “laughing stock of the world” because of its repeated voting mishaps and failure to conduct smooth elections. The midterm election featured three statewide recounts. Machines in Palm Beach County overheated and broke down. Politicians leveled unfounded allegations of voter fraud. A ballot design error likely cost an incumbent senator thousands of votes. It was deja vu. Back in 2000, the world’s eyes turned to Florida during the Bush v. Gore recount. That election had its own host of problems: butterfly ballots, hanging chad and a Brooks Brothers riot carried out by well-dressed, paid Republican protesters. So has Florida learned its lesson? Will 2020 be the year Florida emerges as a shining beacon of democracy, where votes are counted efficiently and accurately? Will other states look on with envy at the Sunshine State’s competency and civic prowess? Election officials and longtime Florida politicos say they are optimistic that Florida is in a better position than ever to run a drama-free election.

Full Article: Florida election officials say 2020 won’t be a repeat of 2000 – South Florida Sun-Sentinel

In Florida, voters of color and young voters have had ballots flagged for possible rejection at higher rates than others | Elise Viebeck and Beth Reinhard/The Washington Post

As Floridians rush to vote in the presidential election, mail ballots from Black, Hispanic and younger voters are being flagged for problems at a higher rate than they are for other voters, potentially jeopardizing their participation in the race for the country’s largest battleground state. The deficient ballots — which have been tagged for issues such as a missing signature — could be rejected if voters do not remedy the problems by 5 p.m. Nov. 5. As of Thursday, election officials had set aside twice as many ballots from Black and Hispanic voters as those from White voters, according to an analysis by University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith. For people younger than 24, the rate was more than four times what it was for those 65 and older. While the number of deficient mail ballots in Florida was relatively low one week before the election, at roughly 15,000 out of more than 4.3 million cast, that figure could rise sharply: Roughly 1.6 million Floridians still have outstanding mail ballots.

Full Article: In Florida, voters of color and young voters have had ballots flagged for possible rejection at higher rates than others – The Washington Post

Florida failed to spend $10 million for election security, COVID protection | Jeffrey Schweers/Tallahassee Democrat

With days to go, Florida has failed to spend more than $10 million designated for election security, COVID-19 protection at the polls and a surge in mailed ballots. A large piece of that pie is $3.5 million that Secretary of State Laurel Lee requested from the Legislature earlier this year for the state’s 67 county supervisors of elections to shore up their systems. The counties didn’t ask for that money. And it remains unspent, sitting in a state account as “unbudgeted reserve.” Another chunk of pie left on the plate is $6 million in CARES Act funds that 19 counties decided not to take advantage of, which could be used to make polling places safer for voters and hire extra people to count mail-in ballots. As the state’s top election official, Lee insists Florida is ready. “Florida is very well situated to proceed to our November election,” Lee said. Lee said the same thing about making sure the online voter registration system could handle the onslaught of new applicants. But it crashed on the last day people were allowed to apply to vote, forcing Lee to extend the deadline and sparking a legal challenge to extend it further.

Full Article: Florida failed to spend $10 million for election security, COVID protection

Florida’s elections chief works to avoid becoming household name in 2020 vote count | Skyler Swisher/South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Laurel Lee has an IQ fitting of the challenge ahead of her — ensure that the presidential election in Florida runs smoothly and doesn’t become a punchline yet again for the nation’s comedians. As secretary of state, Lee serves as the state’s top elections official, working with independent supervisors of elections for each of Florida’s 67 counties. It’s a position that can be overlooked, but if something goes wrong in a high-stakes election, the secretary of state can quickly become a household name. In 2000, then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris emerged as one of the key players in the Bush v. Gore recount drama. Lee’s credentials include a law degree from the University of Florida, a stint as a judge in Hillsborough County and membership in Mensa, an organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or above on IQ tests.

Full Article: Laurel Lee, Florida’s top election official, ready for Nov. 3 – South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Florida voting rights group combats threats over Trump | Lawrence Mower/Miami Herald

Florida Republicans’ request last month for police and the FBI to investigate a program to pay off felons’ court fees and fines hasn’t amounted to criminal charges or a formal probe.But it has created a “chilling effect” and sparked threats from white supremacists, according to Desmond Meade, executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which has raised tens of millions of dollars to pay off court fees and fines for felons over the last 18 months. Meade said Friday he’s hired lawyers and security experts to combat threats from people who now believe he and his organization are working to undermine President Donald Trump’s reelection. “White supremacist groups were encouraging people to go to our website and do nefarious things and trying to sabotage the site,” Meade said. He’s now trying to remind everyone that his organization is nonpartisan. In 2018, Meade and his group led the effort to overturn the state’s 150-year-old ban on felon voting, which was successful because it had support from both Republicans and Democrats. He has largely stayed out of the litigation over a law Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last year requiring felons to pay off all court fees, fines and restitution to victims before being allowed to vote.

Florida: Pinellas County deputies investigate report of armed voter intimidation at St. Petersburg voting location | Lisette Lopez  and Ryan Smith/WFTS

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report of possible armed voter intimidation at a downtown St. Petersburg voting location, the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections said. According to the Pinellas SOE Julie Marcus, two people suspected of voter intimidation were wearing security uniforms at the downtown St. Petersburg early voting location at 501 First Ave N.According to Marcus, the pair told a responding law enforcement officer that they are with a private security company. She says a concerned staff member reported at least one of them was armed. The pair set up a tent and claimed to be working for the Trump campaign, Marcus said.”These persons claimed or said that they were hired by the Trump campaign, again I’m not going to speculate to that. This was a licensed security company and they were licensed security officers,” Marcus said.

Florida: Will the Recount State Be Ready for the Election? | Patricia Mazzei and Frances Robles/The New York Times

Most states have the occasional problems running their elections. Not Florida. Florida has debacles. … More than two decades of scandals and blunders have made Florida the nation’s elections punchline, the state that kept the world at the edge of its seat while votes for president were manually recounted. The shadows of Florida elections past seem to lurk everywhere.“I feel like I’ve seen this movie before,” Judge Mark E. Walker of the Federal District Court in Tallahassee said in a ruling this month after the state’s voter registration website crashed under the weight of thousands of last-minute applications. Now the state, like the rest of the nation, faces perhaps the most daunting test yet: a 2020 election conducted in the midst of a pandemic, amid unsubstantiated fraud claims spread by the president and others. Reasonable predictions suggest that the legal wrangling over the results could stretch far beyond election night. Is Florida ready?

Florida: Emails threatening voters to “vote for Trump or else!” linked to overseas servers | Melissa Quinn, Stefan Becket and Graham Kates/CBS

Dozens of voters in a heavily Democratic county in Florida and across several states reported receiving emails on Thursday purporting to come from a right-wing group threatening to “come after” them unless they vote for President Trump. But an examination of the messages, which are now under investigation by state and federal authorities, shows they were sent via servers located overseas, raising questions about their origin amid concerns about voter intimidation just two weeks before Election Day. Democratic voters in Alachua County, Florida, began receiving the email on Tuesday morning, and voters in Alaska and Arizona also reported receiving the message. Early voting began in Florida on Monday. The emails appeared to come from the right-wing group The Proud Boys, and showed a “from” address of info@officialproudboys.com. The Proud Boys has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group.

Florida voting machines ripe for Russian hackers, experts say | John Pacenti/Palm Beach Post

Bad actors working for the likes of Russia and other nation-states are lurking on the internet, waiting for their chance to infiltrate the American voting system. Florida may be ripe for the picking, computer scientists say, because numerous counties rely on voting machines that are drawing fire for their vulnerability to a cyberattack. These computer scientists along with election integrity groups familiar with the model that Palm Beach and 48 other counties use, say there are potentially numerous ways for a foreign entity to alter results. They say that state election officials have accepted wholesale the spin from the manufacturer that these machines — which voters at polling places feed ballots into after marking candidates of their choice — are secure. “It has been asserted that voting machines are not vulnerable to remote hacking because they are never connected to the Internet, but both the premise and the conclusion are false,” states a Sept. 15 letter sent to Florida’s Division of Elections by nearly 30 of the country’s top computer scientists and election integrity groups.

Florida: Vote-by-mail settlement clears decks for voting in crucial Florida primary, general elections | Michael Moline/Florida Phoenix

A weekend settlement doesn’t resolve every point of contention between voting rights organizations, the state, and Florida’s 67 county supervisors of elections over access to early and mail-in voting during the pandemic in the country’s largest electoral swing state. But to the extent the outcome helps disadvantaged groups — Blacks, Latinos, the disabled, and more — overcome the state’s allegedly “gross inaction,” it could help decide an historic election. And in expanding access to both voting alternatives and mandating that the state and supervisors promote them among the public, it leaves those organizers free to use limited financial resources to move these voters to the polls instead of paying lawyers. That was the analysis representatives of those groups offered during a Zoom conference call Monday as U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle signed off on the settlement agreement. The day marked the deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 18 primary elections for state offices and Congress. “This settlement is a clear victory and a step forward for black and Latinx voters, as well as for all Floridians. Florida has finally done one thing right about the COVID crisis — Florida is settling this case,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project.

Florida: Vote-by-mail legal battle reaches settlement | Tampa Bay Times

On the eve of a trial slated to begin Monday, lawyers representing the state and plaintiffs in a legal battle over Florida’s vote-by-mail procedures have reached a settlement. Priorities USA, Dream Defenders and other plaintiffs have been seeking to expand the state’s vote-by-mail process, arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in a record number of Floridians casting ballots from home to reduce chances of being infected with the highly contagious coronavirus. Among other things, the plaintiffs asked to extend a deadline for mail-in ballots to be returned. They also wanted free postage for the ballots and challenged a provision in Florida law restricting paid workers from collecting mail-in ballots. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle had set aside two weeks for a trial scheduled to start Monday. But on Sunday, plaintiffs and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration notified the court that they had reached a settlement.

Florida: Democrats Go to Court to Compel Supervisors of Elections to Retain Electronic Ballot Images | Mitch Perry/Spectrum News

A group of Florida Democrats filed a lawsuit earlier this month, claiming that the supervisors of elections who are destroying electronic ballot images from vote scanning machines are in violation of state and federal law. Election law requires that supervisors of elections retain paper ballots for at least 22 months after an election, but approximately 40 of the 67 counties are not retaining their electronic ballots, according to the suit, which was filed on July 1 in the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County.  “It’s the redundancy. Instead of just one set of paper ballots, you have a set of paper ballots and you have the ballot images,” says attorney Chris Sautter, representing the group AUDIT Elections USA, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of a number of Florida Democrats. Digital vote scanners are in use throughout Florida as the mechanism by which voters cast ballots and the ballots are tabulated. These digital vote scanning systems replaced optical scanners over the course of the past decade. They function by capturing an electronic image of each vote on each ballot. As ballots are fed through digital scanners, the scanners automatically create an electronic image of each ballot that is automatically stored as an electronic file.  In the 2018 general election in Florida, there were approximately 3,000 so-called “lost votes.” Sautter claims that those votes would have been counted if the ballot images were preserved, and thus there would have been a more accurate account.

Florida: Lawsuit seeks to force Florida counties to preserve digital ballot images | Allison Ross/Tampa Bay Times

A national nonprofit that advocates for election security has spearheaded a lawsuit against Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and several county elections officials in an attempt to force them to preserve images of ballots that are made when paper ballots are scanned into voting machines. The lawsuit, filed late Wednesday in Leon County Circuit Court, asks that the state issue instructions in time for the Aug. 18 primary election to require all county supervisors of elections to capture and preserve the images. The group of plaintiffs includes the Florida Democratic Party, three state legislators who are up for re-election and Dan Helm, a Democrat running for Pinellas County supervisor of elections. Other voters are also plaintiffs, including Susan Pynchon, executive director of the Florida Fair Elections Coalition. The suit names Lee, who oversees the state’e elections system, as a defendant, along with the state’s director of the division of elections and the supervisors of elections in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Broward, Orange, Lee, Duval, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

Florida: As elections go digital, Democratic legislators want state to preserve the images | Mary Ellen Klas/Miami Herald

Should Florida keep a digital image of every ballot that gets recorded on vote scanning machines? That is the question three Florida Democratic legislators want a judge to decide in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Leon County Circuit Court. They say it’s time the state stop the practice of destroying digital images of ballots after an election, especially with the state’s reputation for razor-thin election margins. The lawsuit, by Rep. Joseph S. Geller, D-Aventura, Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, Sen. Victor M. Torres, D-Kissimmee, Dan Helm, a candidate for Supervisor of Elections in Pinellas County, as well as eight voters and the Florida Democratic Party, asks a judge to require the state to order local election officials to retain the ballot images from optical scanning machines for 22 months. State and federal laws require that paper ballots be retained, but there is no requirement that the images used to verify the ballots be kept as well. The lawsuit asks that ballot images be treated as public records available for inspection and production. “We believe that local election officials want to follow the law, but they need clear direction from the Secretary of State, who is the chief elections officer for the State of Florida, and the courts,” said attorney Chris Sautter, who also serves as counsel to AUDIT Elections USA. The complaint was filed in the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County.