Florida: ‘Tone down the rhetoric’: Elections officials tell politicians to chill out | Lawrence Mower/Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s elections supervisors have a message for elected officials: “Tone down the rhetoric.” In a plea to officials at “all levels of government,” the group representing the state’s Republican and Democratic county elections officials are asking them to denounce “false claims” surrounding last year’s election. “During and after the 2020 Presidential Election, the integrity of our democracy has been challenged by misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation that sows discord and undermines trust in America’s electoral process,” the memo states. “Many of us have been threatened by our fellow citizens who have been led astray by these deceptions. “Instead of standing idly by, we ask all candidates and elected officials to tone down the rhetoric and stand up for our democracy.” The memo was considered extraordinary for the Florida Supervisors of Elections, the organization representing the officials overseeing elections in the state’s 67 counties. Despite Florida’s turbulent history with elections, supervisors have largely stayed out of the limelight, even while Florida legislators were passing a contentious voting reform bill this year. Thursday’s memo is overdue, said Marion County Elections Supervisor Wesley Wilcox, president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections. “In hindsight, we probably should have done it 8 or 9 months ago,” Wilcox said. “But it needs to be done, just to protect the foundation of this democracy.”

Full Article: ‘Tone down the rhetoric’: Florida elections officials tell politicians to chill out

Florida: DeSantis says state won’t review 2020 election | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Florida does not plan to review the 2020 election, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday during an appearance in St. Pete Beach. “What we do in Florida is, there’s a pre- and post-election audit that happens automatically,” DeSantis said. “So, that has happened. It passed with flying colors in terms of how that’s going.” DeSantis was asked about an audit because a growing number of Republicans have pushed for a recount of the election that former President Donald Trump won relatively comfortably in Florida — though he lost nationally. DeSantis noted that Florida took steps to secure the election process after races in 2018, including his own, were closely contested. And he said the state took further actions with a contentious elections bill that the Republican-dominated Legislature passed in April. “Going forward, we did a great election package,” DeSantis said. “And I think some of the things that we did in there to make sure that there’s a voter ID, for not only in-person, but also when you’re doing absentee voting, also making sure there’s no ballot harvesting — that is totally toxic and that really undermines confidence.”

Full Article: DeSantis says Florida won’t review 2020 election – South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Florida: Lake County GOP demands election audit, despite Trump’s win | Steven Lemongelloand Gray Rohrer/Orlando Sentinel

Lake County Republicans are the latest GOP group to echo former President Trump’s false claims of election fraud by demanding a statewide forensic audit of Florida, a state Trump won by almost 372,000 votes. In a letter and two resolutions unanimously approved last week and sent to Florida GOP leaders, the Lake County Republican Executive Committee claimed “a majority of citizens doubt that the November 3, 2020, election was conducted openly and fairly” and “doubt the number of legal votes cast for each candidate equals the reported and certified results, in Lake County, the State of Florida, and the United States.” The Lake County GOP said it “demands” that the Legislature conduct an “immediate, open, transparent and independent full forensic audit, including a hand recount” of Lake County and the entire state, “at least as thorough as the audit being conducted in Maricopa County, Arizona.” Trump received almost 60% of the vote in Lake County over President Biden in 2020, and won Florida by 51% to 48%. Despite DeSantis’ praise for how the state conducted the election, he later called for and signed a controversial election law that significantly reduced drop boxes and added new restrictions for mail-in ballots and canvassing.

Full Article: Lake County GOP demands Florida election audit, despite Trump’s win – Orlando Sentinel

Florida: With 2022 on the horizon, election officials brace for death threats | Dara Kam/News Ervice of Florida

After last year’s emotionally charged elections and in anticipation of what some predict will be a tsunami of threats to elections officials, a bipartisan group of high-powered lawyers are joining forces and enlisting others to offer free legal advice to elections administrators. And they’ve tapped Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley to serve on the advisory board for the newly created Election Official Legal Defense Network. The nonprofit is co-chaired by Ben Ginsberg, a veteran Republican attorney who represented President George W. Bush’s campaign during the 2000 recount, and Bob Bauer, a longtime Democratic attorney who served as White House counsel under former President Barack Obama. The group was founded in collaboration with the Center for Election Innovation & Research and its executive director, David Becker. “It’s almost sad and unfortunate that we have to be talking about this. You know, odd-numbered years are usually pretty low-key elections. It’s like last November just continues, sort of like Groundhog Day,” Corley told reporters Wednesday during a Zoom call to announce the group. Corley said he was hit with death threats, and dozens of racial slurs were lobbed at his workers following last year’s presidential election, despite Florida’s smooth election. A group of protesters showed up at the home where Corley previously lived with his ex-wife and son, who were still residing at the house, he said. He received death threats on social media. The Pasco supervisor said he had to enlist the aid of local and federal law enforcement.

Full Article: With 2022 on the horizon, Florida election officials brace for death threats

Florida: GOP state lawmaker demands forensic voting audit | Jake Dima/Yahoo News

A GOP lawmaker called for a forensic voting audit in Florida on Monday as he cited “significant irregularities” in similar inquiries in Georgia and Arizona. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, demanded the Florida secretary of state and local election authorities investigate the five most populous counties: Hillsborough, Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Orange. He also urged top leaders in the state Legislature to pass a bill allowing top authorities “any tools they need to ensure that audits are thoroughly conducted.” “A full forensic audit of the five counties must be done immediately,” Sabatini said. “Florida voters’ confidence in our elections is at an all-time low. Disturbing revelations in Arizona, Georgia and other states make clear that the Secretary of State needs to do more than attempt to secure future elections. They must also look back and ensure that laws already on the books were followed in previous elections.” “This is not a partisan issue and is a necessary step in ensuring voter confidence in future elections,” he continued, adding that “it’s about time” election officials “start showing some transparency.”


Full Article: GOP state lawmaker demands forensic voting audit in Florida

Editorial: The real, on-the-ground effects of Florida’s new voting law | Alex Berrios/South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Since Senate Bill 90 was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 6, the state has been hit with four federal lawsuits over the controversial new elections law. Proponents of this legislation have justified its restrictions on mail-in voting by citing election security concerns and preventing voter fraud. However, SB 90 presents a much more alarming reality, politicizing the act of voting to disenfranchise thousands of Floridians from participating in future elections. I am a Florida native invested in the state’s politics since birth and professionally since 2017. In 2020, I cofounded Mi Vecino, a Florida-based nonprofit dedicated to engaging and empowering Black, brown and first-time voters across the state. This first-hand experience has given me insight into the real impact of SB 90. The new law makes the following changes to voting by mail: Voters must enroll in vote-by-mail every two years; enrollment requirements have expanded to include the last four digits of a registered voter’s SSN or driver’s license number; and voters have to use the same form of ID across both in-person and vote-by-mail registrations. These new requirements will force every voter without vote-by-mail registration to re-register. In my years of political organizing, most people don’t remember which form of ID they used to register to vote, with some having registered decades ago. Those most likely to use vote-by-mail — students attending college out of state, seniors, voters with disabilities and voters who work multiple jobs or have families and other responsibilities — will be forced to stand in line on Election Day using time they cannot spare, or not vote at all.

Full Article: The real, on-the-ground effects of Florida’s new voting law | Opinion – South Florida Sun Sentinel – South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Florida: Pasco County’s elections official rejected 2020 conspiracies. Then he faced threats. | Jake Sheridan/Tampa Bay Times

When Pasco County elections supervisor Brian Corley first began receiving insult-riddled voicemails ahead of the 2020 election, he almost thought it was humorous. “Then it went real south,” Corley told the Times. Callers directed slurs at call center staff, sometimes threatening bodily harm. In December, after Corley made public comments condemning unfounded claims that the election had been stolen, protesters showed up at his office, then outside the house where his ex-wife and son live. Harassment and threats escalated. Corley said some of the threats, which he declined to detail, seemed credible. The FBI and Pasco Sheriff’s Office got involved, and quickly “nipped it in the bud,” Corley said. The Republican elections supervisor knew that some people wouldn’t like him saying that the election had been secure and the country needed to accept that Joe Biden had beaten Donald Trump in the race for president. He’d seen how elections officials in other parts of the country had been harassed and threatened. But he hadn’t anticipated quite the level of vitriol he received in a state that had gone firmly for Trump and been lauded for its smooth 2020 election. “I was a little angry, and paranoid,” Corley said. The courage of election workers facing death threats in other states for speaking the truth inspired him, he said.

Full Article: Pasco’s elections official rejected 2020 conspiracies. Then he faced threats.

Florida elections supervisors confused, frustrated by new voting law | Jake Sheridan/Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s new elections reform law is causing headaches and confusion for the state’s 67 county elections supervisors — and several vented their frustrations to Secretary of State Laurel Lee and other state officials during a conference Wednesday. “We’re all still struggling with how vague some of the new things put into law are,” Okaloosa County election supervisor Paul Lux told the Times following a sometimes-heated discussion on the controversial new law during the Florida Supervisors of Elections’ summer conference. “We need answers.” Recognizing that tensions over the law, SB 90, might be high, the state had asked that questions for Wednesday’s session with Florida Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews be submitted ahead of time. But several election supervisors took to the microphone in the grand ballroom of Tampa’s Water Street Marriott anyway, raising concerns about a lack of clarity on what the law requires them to do. “Would you agree with me that these questions are the classic example why the legislators should have checked with the election experts before they started tinkering with things?” Alan Hays, Lake County’s elections supervisor, pointedly asked attorneys with the state, drawing applause from election supervisors and staff. Hays, previously a Republican state senator, credited his fellow elections supervisors for improving the bill before passage, saying it previously had parts that were “absolutely so hideous.” Earlier in the day, a lobbyist for the statewide bipartisan elections association told attendees that, at one point, the elections bill was a whopping 400 pages and said behind-the-scenes back-and-forth over the bill included a legislator wanting all voting machines to be made in Florida, even though he said none currently sold are.

Full Article: Florida elections supervisors confused, frustrated by new voting law

Florida elections law draws another challenge | News Service Of Florida

As challenges to a new Florida elections law stack up, a case filed Monday in federal court alleges that part of the law placing requirements on voter-registration organizations is unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the groups HeadCount and the Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters Corp., is the fourth challenge to the law, which was passed in April by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed in May by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The latest case is narrowly tailored to one section of the law that involves what are known as third-party voter-registration organizations. The law, in part, requires the organizations to inform voter-registration applicants that the organizations might not meet legal deadlines for delivering forms to elections officials. Also, the organizations are required to tell applicants how to register online. The challenge, filed in federal district court in Tallahassee, contends the law (SB 90) requires a “misleading warning” and violates First Amendment rights. “The mandatory disclaimer serves no legitimate governmental function or purpose, as there is no evidence that Floridians have been confused about the nature of community-based voter registration activity,” said the lawsuit, filed by attorneys for the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Fair Elections Center. “There is no suggestion that plaintiffs or similar voter registration groups have regularly turned in late forms or that they would make anything other than their best efforts to timely submit forms.”

Full Article: Elections law draws another challenge

Florida: ‘Up is down and down is up.’ Report examines misinformation on Miami Spanish talk radio | Lautaro Grinspan/Miami Herald

Thousands of dead people and noncitizens voted in the 2020 presidential election. There were more votes cast than registered voters. Black Lives Matter and Antifa infiltrated the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol. Those are just some of the conspiracy theories compiled in a new media monitoring report published Wednesday, revealing the extent to which misinformation pervaded the airwaves of Miami Spanish-language talk radio in the immediate lead-up to, and aftermath of, the Jan. 6 insurrection. Scrutinizing a week’s worth of early to mid-January pre-recorded programming, the report shows how a group of radio hosts across two popular local AM stations, Radio Mambi and Actualidad Radio, mischaracterized the events of Jan. 6 and continued amplifying baseless claims of voter fraud, sometimes with the tacit endorsement of high-ranking guests, including U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar of Miami-Dade. Leaders of the organizations that produced the report — including progressive-leaning advocacy groups Florida Rising and Miami Freedom Project as well as communication firms ProsperoLatino and Latina Comunica — told the Herald that the aim of the media monitoring initiative is to better understand, and expose, how misinformation is disseminated on Spanish-language radio, a key component of an influential misinformation ecosystem targeting Hispanics in South Florida.

Full Article: Report: Conspiracy theories abound on Spanish-language radio | Miami Herald

Florida’s new election law hit with third legal challenge | Jim Saunders/Tampa Bay Times

Alleging discrimination against Black and Latino voters, a coalition of groups has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a new Florida elections law that includes additional restrictions on voting by mail. The lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. district court in Tallahassee is at least the third challenge to the law, which was passed last month by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis during an appearance on Fox News. The law (SB 90) was one of the most controversial issues of the 2021 legislative session and came after a relatively smooth 2020 election in Florida. Republican lawmakers contended the changes were needed to ensure election security and prevent fraud in future elections. But the lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of the groups Florida Rising Together, Faith in Florida, UnidosUS, the Equal Ground Education Fund, the Hispanic Federation and Poder Latinx, contends that the changes dealing with issues such as voting by mail could curtail voting by Black and Latino residents. “While SB 90 imposes unjustified burdens on all voters, it places disproportionate burdens on Black voters, Latino voters, disabled voters, and voters who face greater challenges in exercising the right to vote, even in the best of circumstances,” the 91-page lawsuit said. “SB 90 imposes specific obstacles on voters’ ability to cast ballots through in-person voting, mail voting, and the use of secure drop-boxes for early voting.”

Full Article: Florida’s new election law hit with third legal challenge

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