Florida Grand Jury Urges Change in Laws to Prevent Absentee Voter Fraud

The Miami-Dade County Grand Jury has issued a final report urging changes in Florida law to prevent absentee ballot voter fraud and to expand early voting periods. Among other points the report recommends that all absentee voter signatures be witnessed by someone over the age of 18 and that anyone providing assistance to an absentee voter sign a declaration which will be returned to with the ballot. The grand jury also recommends that statewide legislation prohibit the possession of more than two absentee ballots by any person. This suggestion was prompted by the practice of “ballot brokering” which occurs when a person is hired by a candidate to deliver in bulk completed absentee ballots .

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Hundreds of Florida Absentee Ballots are Dead on Arrival

As this story illustrates, hundreds if not thousands of Florida absentee ballots will not be counted this year because the voter forgot to sign the certificate on the outside of the ballot mailing envelope. F.S. 101.68(2)(c)1. mandates that “[a]n absentee ballot shall be considered illegal if it does not include the signature of the elector…” There is no provision in Florida law which permits a supervisor of elections notify the voter of the error before election day. Moreover, F.S. 101.68(1) states that “[a]fter an absentee ballot is received by the supervisor, the ballot is deemed to have been cast, and changes or additions may not be made to the voter’s certificate.”

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Federal Court Denies Request to Block Florida Early Voting Law

On September 24, 2012, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida entered an order denying a request to enjoin the Florida law  passed in 2011 which reduced the number of early voting days. See  F.S. 101.657 (1)(d). The plaintiffs in Congresswoman Corrine Brown, et al. v. Ken Detzner, et al  alleged that the law had the effect of denying African American voters an equal chance to participate in the electoral process.  In rejecting this argument, the court held that “…at this stage in the proceedings, Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that they are substantially likely to prove that the 2011 changes to the Early Voting Statute were made with the intent to discriminate against minority voters, or that Florida’s current Early Voting Statute operates to deny or abridge African Americans’ right to vote on account of their race.”

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Court Strictly Construes Absentee Ballots in Florida Election Contest

In case of Addie L. Greene, et al. v. Jeff Clemens, et al . the Leon County Circuit Court recently entered a final judgment rejecting an election contest suit which was based upon the failure of the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board to count 40 absentee ballots.  The court found that the canvassing board did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the 40 ballots should not be counted because the signatures on the absentee ballot voter certificate did not match the signatures in the voter registration records.  The court found that its review of the issues was strictly limited by the language of F.S. 102.168(8), which states that the “circuit court may not review or consider any evidence other than the signature on the voter certificate and the signature of the elector in the registration records”. Because of the language of this statute, the court concluded that it could not consider the testimony of the voters whose ballots were rejected.  After reviewing the voter certificate signatures and comparing them with those on the registration records, the court found that the signatures did not match and therefore the Palm Beach Canvassing Board did not abuse its discretion in rejecting the ballots. 

 

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Florida’s Early Voting Plan Approved by Department of Justice

Florida and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have reached an agreement regarding the number of early voting days and hours in the 5 counties still subject to federal review under the Voting Rights Act . In a notice filed in the case of State of Florida vs United States of America et al., the DOJ outlines an agreement which provides for a maximum of 96 hours of early voting in the effected 5 counties, including 12 hours of early voting each day during the early voting period.  This agreement ends the litigation regarding pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act of the early voting hours established in 2011 by Fla. Stat. § 101.657(d) (2011).  

An administrative challenge alleging inconsistencies between the early voting hours in the 5 counties and the remaining 62 counties is still pending, although according to a   motion filed in that case the settlement with the DOJ renders the inconsistency issue moot.

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Florida Election Contest Suits Multiply After Primaries

At least three election contest suits have been filed in Leon County which challenge the outcome of State House and Senate primaries conducted on August 14th

In Addie L. Greene, et al. v. Jeff Clemens, et al. the unsuccessful candidate in a State Senate primary sued his successful primary opponent alleging the improper rejection by the Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections and Canvassing Board of over 40 absentee ballots. The winner of this primary was decided by 17 votes. Read this UPDATE.

In James Bush, III v. Dwight Bullard, an unsuccessful primary candidate for the State Senate sued his successful primary opponent alleging irregularities in the processing of absentee ballots and a violation of the “resign to run” law, F.S. 99.012(3).  This election was separated by 3,085 votes. 

In John Patrick Julien v. Barbara Watson, et al. the unsuccessful primary candidate for State House, District 107, sued his successful opponent alleging improprieties in the casting and processing of absentee ballots, including misconduct committed by “ballot brokers” who collected to absentee ballots from people living in assisted living facilities.

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