DeSantis taps Cord Byrd, self-described ‘Florida gun lawyer,’ to oversee elections | Steve Contorno/CNN

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has put in charge of the state’s election systems a deeply conservative state lawmaker who has championed legislation to ban so-called sanctuary cities and calls himself the “Florida gun lawyer.” DeSantis announced on Friday the appointment of state Rep. Cord Byrd as the next secretary of state, a day after the current officeholder, Laurel Lee, announced she was resigning. Byrd takes over the Florida Department of State at a critical juncture in the agency’s history: For the first time, the office will oversee a new election security force with unprecedented authority to hunt for election and voting violations in the state. The new election force was a top priority for DeSantis, who signed a law to create the Office of Election Crimes and Security earlier this year. “Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida has led the way on election security and preserving freedom for its residents,” Byrd said in a statement. “As Secretary of State, I will make sure Florida continues to have secure elections and that we protect the freedom of our citizens in the face of big-tech censorship and ever-growing cybersecurity threats.” The change in leadership comes amid a busy midterm election cycle where DeSantis will be on the ballot, and with the Department of State embroiled in multiple lawsuits over Florida’s new congressional map and a 2021 law that put new restrictions on mail-in voting and other election measures. On Thursday, a state judge called the new DeSantis-backed congressional boundaries unconstitutional because they diminish the power of Black voters in northern Florida, but an appellate court on Friday stayed the lower court’s ruling.

Full Article: DeSantis taps Cord Byrd, self-described ‘Florida gun lawyer,’ to oversee elections – CNNPolitics

Florida: Voting rights advocates decry new office for election crimes | Sam Levine/The Guardian

Florida has approved a measure that would create a statewide office to investigate election crimes – the first of its kind in the United States. Voter fraud is extremely rare both nationwide and in Florida. Nonetheless, the new office of election crime and security will have 25 positions to investigate election fraud and be funded with more than $3m, Daniel Perez, a Republican state representative who backed the bill, said on the floor of the Florida house this week. It will be housed within the department of state, which is responsible for overseeing elections in Florida and whose head is appointed by the governor. The department will be authorized to investigate any alleged violations of Florida election law and oversee a voter fraud hotline. Each year, the agency will be required to provide a report to the governor and state legislature on how many investigations it conducted the previous year as well as how many matters were referred to another agency for further investigation or prosecution. The measure passed the Florida house on Wednesday and final approval from the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is expected shortly. The unit is slightly scaled back from what DeSantis called for in January, when he requested $6m for the office and wanted 52 staffers.

Full Article: Voting rights advocates decry Florida’s new office for election crimes | US news | The Guardian

Florida Senate Passes Voting Bill to Create Election Crimes Agency | Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

The Florida Senate passed a sweeping new bill overhauling the state’s electoral process, adding new restrictions to the state election code and establishing a law enforcement office dedicated solely to investigating election crimes. The bill, which passed 24-14, now goes to the state’s House of Representatives, where it could pass as soon as next week and land on the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, who is expected to sign it. One Republican, State Senator Jeff Brandes, voted against it. A Democratic senator, Loranne Ausley, initially voted yes, but immediately posted on Twitter that she “pushed the wrong button” and has since changed her vote. Though Republicans in the state had passed another sweeping voting law in May of last year, Mr. DeSantis made election reform one of the top priorities for this legislative session as well. Both efforts come after the 2020 election in Florida was without any major issues, and Republicans in the state touted it as a “gold standard” for election administration.

Full Article: Florida Senate Passes Voting Bill to Create Election Crimes Agency – The New York Times

Florida bill creating election police unit ready for Senate floor | Renzo Downey/Florida Politics

The Senate could soon vote to establish an election crimes investigations unit, ban ranked-choice voting, change vote-by-mail forms and more. After more than two hours of discussion, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted nearly along party lines Thursday to send an elections bill (SB 524) that contains several of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “election integrity” priorities to the Senate floor. Despite bipartisan agreement the 2020 election was possibly the smoothest in Florida’s recent history, the bill is Republicans’ second follow-up measure to strengthen Florida’s voting laws. The legislation, sponsored by St. Augustine Republican Sen. Travis Hutson, proposes many changes to several areas of Florida election laws. “I don’t want one illegal vote in the state of Florida, and I don’t think we should be afraid of our elections being too secure,” Hutson told the committee. Gulf Breeze Republican Sen. Doug Broxson suggested the measure is insurance for the future rather than a reaction to the past. “We’re really looking to the future, to the reality of what seems to be a changing landscape across the country on election procedure,” Broxson told the committee. But Democrats, like Jacksonville Sen. Audrey Gibson, contested the bill’s purpose. “All this is stoking fear. It is wanting to cause division, not only in this state, but in this country,” Gibson said.

Full Article: Bill creating election police unit ready for Senate floor

Florida governor proposes special police agency to monitor elections | Lori Rozsa and Beth Reinhard/The Washington Post

A plan by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would establish a special police force to oversee state elections — the first of its kind in the nation — and while his fellow Republicans have reacted tepidly, voting rights advocates fear that it will become law and be used to intimidate voters. The proposed Office of Election Crimes and Security would be part of the Department of State, which answers to the governor. DeSantis is asking the GOP-controlled legislature to allocate nearly $6 million to hire 52 people to “investigate, detect, apprehend, and arrest anyone for an alleged violation” of election laws. They would be stationed at unspecified “field offices throughout the state” and act on tips from “government officials or any other person.” DeSantis highlighted his plan as legislators opened their annual 60-day session last week. Voting rights experts say that no state has such an agency, one dedicated to patrolling elections and empowered to arrest suspected violators. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) announced the formation of a “2021 Texas Election Integrity Unit” in October, but that office is more limited in scope, has fewer than 10 employees and isn’t under the governor’s authority.

Full Article: Florida governor pushes new election police agency – The Washington Post

Florida: Insurrection’s toll evident a year later as fraud claims color political debate | Zac Anderson and Antonio Fins/Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop Joe Biden’s election victory from being certified, the rhetoric that led to the insurrection continues to reverberate in election offices across Florida and color the political debate in Trump’s home state. Florida had the most arrests stemming from Jan. 6 and the most members of two far right extremist groups arrested in connection with the insurrection, but there has been no effort to address extremism. Instead, Florida GOP leaders have worked to placate a Republican base inflamed by Trump’s unfounded election fraud claims, instituting new voting restrictions and likely pursuing other changes to election oversight this year. Trump continues to push the same rhetoric that drove his supporters to overrun the Capitol, and is likely to keep up his fraud drumbeat at a Jan. 15 rally in Florence, Arizona.

Full Article: Trump’s stolen election rhetoric putting pressure on Ron DeSantis, GOP

Florida: Rules to use high-speed audit equipment for vote recounts drafted | Jeffrey Schweers/Tallahassee Democrat

State elections officials are proposing new rules for election audits and recounts based on a law approved in 2020. It was pushed by county election supervisors for years to allow independent auditing machines to perform recounts. The law took effect Jan. 1, 2021, but can’t be implemented without the rules – a process that was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the applications of former felons seeking restoration of their voting rights whose eligibility needed to be investigated. “The rules currently envision refeeding all ballots through the ballot tabulation system,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley, also the incoming president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections statewide association. “The end goal is we can now use this new technology to enable much more efficient and transparent recounts for the counties that have adopted this technology,” Earley said. But “we can’t do that until these rules are written.”

Full Article: New rules for Florida vote recounts being considered

Florida Gov. DeSantis worries voter groups, local officials with elections police proposal | John Kennedy/Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push to create a new law enforcement arm to police Florida elections is sparking concern among voter outreach organizations and state elections officials worried about how this force could be deployed. The Republican governor has praised Florida’s election performance in the 2020 presidential contest. But he’s never dismissed claims by former President Donald Trump that he lost the White House due to widespread voter irregularities and fraud last November. DeSantis’ call for a $5.7 million, 52-person Election Crimes and Security investigative force within the Florida Department of State has emerged as one of his attempts to lift the cloud he, Trump and others have kept swirling around U.S. elections. Others aren’t so sure. “This is a solution in search of a problem,” said Orange County Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles who, like most elections professionals, says actual vote fraud rarely occurs and is even less likely to be part of an organized effort.

Full Article: DeSantis’ plan for election police prompts concern from voter groups

Florida: How Orange County’s election office solved authentication challenges | Kimberly Johnson/GCN

The volume of ransomware attack attempts in the first half of 2021 was 150% higher than the same time in 2020. Despite this alarming increase, many local governments lag behind other organizations in adopting modern cybersecurity practices, leaving them woefully unprepared for the onslaught of attacks they face. Government agencies have been particularly susceptible to ransomware attacks. Over 40% of central government organizations were targeted in 2020 because their data stores are highly tempting to cybercriminals who want citizens’ sensitive data for phishing and identity theft. Attackers may also be attempting to steal classified data and undermine citizen confidence. Smaller cities and agencies face a unique set of challenges that make them especially vulnerable to attacks. They operate with decentralized budgets and security operations, while large federal, state and local government agencies have the reach, budget and personnel to deliver higher security. The nation’s smaller cities, municipalities, counties and agencies unwittingly offer a wide array of attack options to cybercriminals. Some government agencies, however, have begun preventing attacks by taking a more active approach to threats. Florida’s Orange County Election Office, whose staff comprises a broad spectrum of full- and part-time employees and volunteers, is one such example. The OC Office needed a cybersecurity solution to protect voter data and files to prevent vote tampering and fraud, while also ensuring easy access for its employees.

Full Article: How a Florida county’s election office solved authentication challenges — GCN

Florida: Orange County elections supervisor foils fake ballot in Orlando’s election | Ryan Gillespie/Orlando Sentinel

Of more than 12,000 ballots cast in Orlando’s city council elections last week, one vote caught the attention of the Supervisor of Elections office when it was rejected by a vote-counting machine. Upon further review, it mostly looked like any other ballot. It was marked with a number identifying it as being from the Rock Lake Community Center precinct. It was laid out identically to official ballots with correct fonts and spellings and listed the names of current candidates. What it did not have were exact matching bar codes that line the perimeter of an official ballot. The combination of lines and black boxes unique to each election tells a voting machine how to scan an official ballot. This particular ballot, deemed fake by Supervisor of Election Bill Cowles’ office, had incorrect markings, and only on the top and bottom instead of all four sides. It also was printed on lighter-weight paper, Cowles confirmed with the company that does the office’s printing. The canvassing board tasked with certifying the election, decided not to allow the single ballot to be counted in the District 5 race, determining it was an impostor, he said this week. “I’ve never seen somebody go out and create a ballot to the extent that this one looks like a regular ballot,” said Cowles, who has overseen elections in Orange County since 1996.

Full Article: Orange elections supervisor foils fake ballot in Orlando’s election – Orlando Sentinel

Florida again has an election too close to call | Brendan Farrington/Associated Press

In a state famous for election recounts, just 12 votes separated the leading candidates Wednesday in the Democratic primary in South Florida for the U.S. House seat of the late Alcee Hastings, elections officials said. By law, that means there will be a hand recount of ballots that tabulating machines read as having no votes or too many votes to determine if there is evidence of voter intention. The unofficial returns reported by Palm Beach and Broward county elections officials showed Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness ahead of health care company CEO Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick by 12 votes. “I’m hopeful this lead will hold through the recounts,” Holness said in a phone interview. “Certainly they are big shoes to fill. The congressman was really a powerhouse when it came to his ability to express himself. A great orator … I was very close to the congressman. He was a mentor.” While ballots cast by members of the military and other overseas Florida residents can be counted if received within 10 days of the election, that number is expected to be small. Unofficial returns showed Holness with 11,644 votes and Cherfilus-McCormick with 11,632 votes.

 

Full Article: Recount! Florida again has an election too close to call

Florida Bars State Professors From Testifying in Voting Rights Case | Michael Wines/The New York Times

Three University of Florida professors have been barred from assisting plaintiffs in a lawsuit to overturn the state’s new law restricting voting rights, lawyers said in a federal court filing on Friday. The ban is an extraordinary limit on speech that raises questions of academic freedom and First Amendment rights. University officials told the three that because the school was a state institution, participating in a lawsuit against the state “is adverse to U.F.’s interests” and could not be permitted. In their filing, the lawyers sought to question Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, on whether he was involved in the decision. Mr. DeSantis has resisted questioning, arguing that all of his communications about the law are protected from disclosure because discussions about legislation are privileged. In their filing on Friday, lawyers for the plaintiffs said the federal questions in the case — including whether the law discriminates against minority groups — override any state protections. The university’s refusal to allow the professors to testify was a marked turnabout for the University of Florida. Like schools nationwide, the university has routinely allowed academic experts to offer expert testimony in lawsuits, even when they oppose the interests of the political party in power. Leading experts on academic freedom said they knew of no similar restrictions on professors’ speech and testimony and said the action was probably unconstitutional.

Full Article: Florida Bars State Professors From Testifying in Voting Rights Case – The New York Times

Florida: Lake Elections Supervisor Alan Hays to GOP election-fraud claims: ‘PUT UP OR SHUT UP!!’ – Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel

Irritated by Lake County Republican leaders who want a forensic audit of the 2020 vote and who allege the “entire election system is fraught with flaws,” Elections Supervisor Alan Hays — a long-time member of the GOP — posted a rebuttal on his official website Tuesday, demanding they “PUT UP OR SHUT UP!!” ”As an election professional, I find it disturbing that some of our citizenry continue to promote a narrative that is unsubstantiated in fact or example,” he wrote. “It begins with the unrelenting desire to believe that an election was ‘stolen,’ and that ‘the vast majority of us witnessed (this) on election night 2020.’ ” Hays, a former state legislator, defended the elections in Florida and in Lake, where he has served as supervisor since January 2017. He posted the lengthy “News Bulletin” on lakevotes.com as citizens in five Lake cities went to the polls to choose municipal leaders, including a mayor in Mount Dora. “There continues to be reliance on unproven algorithms and analysis that has been the basis of these ‘stolen’ election claims,” he wrote. The Lake County Republican Executive Committee last month passed resolutions demanding the Legislature conduct an “immediate, open, transparent and independent full forensic audit, including a hand recount” of Lake County and the entire state, though Trump won the county and Florida by almost 372,000 votes. They wanted the review to be “at least as thorough as the audit being conducted in Maricopa County, Arizona.”

Full Article: Lake Elections Supervisor Alan Hays to GOP election-fraud claims: ‘PUT UP OR SHUT UP!!’ – Orlando Sentinel

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’s 67 election supervisors urge voters to reject election falsehoods, audits | National | Steven Lemongello/Orlando Sentinel

Florida’s 67 county elections supervisors wrote a letter to voters Monday urging them to reject falsehoods about the 2020 election and reaffirming the integrity of the state’s voting system. The plea, issued by the Florida Supervisors of Elections, comes after GOP county committees in Lake and Brevard counties called for an Arizona-style “forensic audit” spurred by former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud. It was sent days after the supervisors, headed by Marion County election head Wesley Wilcox, issued a statement to Florida’s elected officials and candidates urging them to tamp down the rhetoric. “The strength of our nation rests on the ability that ‘We the People’ have a voice in its governance and are confident in the integrity of our elections,” Monday’s letter states. “In this hour, public trust in our elections is being systematically undermined, to the detriment of all Americans.” The letter says before 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.”

Full Article: Florida’s 67 election supervisors urge voters to reject election falsehoods, audits | National | union-bulletin.com

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