Florida Governor Rick Scott declared war on Florida voting rights. He tried to throw out tens of thousands of mail-in ballots this election, but a federal judge blocked the action, then reprimanded him. Saturday U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued a blistering caution to the Scott’s top election official on a lawsuit about vote-by-mail ballots.
Governor Scott appointed Secretary of State Ken Detzner. The judge accused Detzner of trying to delay a hearing, “so that he could use every second available to run out the clock,” according to ABC News. That means, there would not be enough time to address the lawsuit. Then, Judge Walker said the governor’s man, Detzner, was in effect committing an “undeclared war’ on Florida voters’ rights.
Florida’s Democratic Party filed a lawsuit asserting that thousands of vote-by-mail ballots were rejected each election, because the voter’s ballot envelope and the registration file signatures do not match. Without a signature, Florida law says that a vote-by-mail ballot cannot be counted.
The lawsuit says that Florida county canvassing boards in the 2012 presidential election rejected over 23,000 votes. Anyone who forgets to sign their ballot can sign it. But when those signatures do not match, the lawsuit says they should have that same right to make sure their signatures match.
The Tallahassee, Florida judge said he will skip the hearing that was scheduled for Monday and make a decision on the lawsuit. In his order, the judge said:
‘This court will not allow the Florida Secretary of State — a high-level officer of the State of Florida — to take a knee and deprive Florida citizens of their most precious right.’
In an email, the spokesperson for the Secretary of State Meredith Beatrice wrote the department had responded by the deadline set by the court. In addition, she claimed her office wasn’t the correct lawsuit defendant, because county canvassing boards canvass mail-in ballots. The Secretary of State’s Office wrote in court documents that the county canvassing boards are the ones to handle this type of problem, not the agency.
The judge scheduled a hearing Monday, after the lawsuit was filed earlier in October. The Secretary of State’s Office asked for time to respond to the lawsuit, one week. Later, the office told the judge that it had no witnesses or evidence for that hearing.
The judge wrote:
‘If one were skeptical, it would appear that the Florida Secretary of State requested as much time as he felt he could possibly justify so that he could use every second available to run out the clock. And by wasting a week on his scintillating response, he quite nearly succeeded.’
Those who use mail-in ballots tend to be elderly with health issues that affect their signature, making it hard to sign the ballots perfectly. The standard for the dual signatures is so high, that it looks like an excuse to toss legitimate ballots.
The judge issued a preliminary injunction to allow Florida Democratic Party count the votes.
Nice try, Governor Scott.
Early voting in Florida starts on October 24, 2016. For information on where and how to vote, check out http://elections.mytimetovote.com/dates/florida.html.
For polling locations and other voting information in all 50 states, check out http://www.vote411.org/.
H/T: ABC News.