As of Monday, eight lawsuits have been filed related to the 2018 midterm election in Florida.
Two of those lawsuits were filed in federal court by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Democratic groups, seeking to challenge the constitutionality of some elements of state voting law. The remaining six have been filed by Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans in state court, mostly asking courts to order specific actions to enforce those laws.
All but one of the lawsuits concern how state and local elections officials are to handle (and count) certain absentee and provisional ballots—particularly absentee ballots that were damaged or received after 7 p.m. on Election Day.
State law requires that local Supervisors of Elections not count absentee ballots received after Election Day unless they came from military service members or overseas. This issue comes up again and again in many of the lawsuits.
Here’s a breakdown of the current litigation.
Four of the six pending lawsuits have been filed in Broward County against Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. The remaining two have been filed in Palm Beach County against Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. Consequently, many different cases have the same name, so we’re sorting them by the date they were filed.
Broward County lawsuits:
- Filed Monday, Nov. 11: Rick Scott for Senate v. Brenda Snipes. In this case, Scott’s Senate campaign asked the court to order that all voting-counting machines and ballots be secured by members of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement when they are not in use during the recount. The rationale for doing this, Scott’s lawyers argue, was to restore eroding public trust in the outcome of the election and ensure that Snipes and her staff do not destroy any evidence of potential wrongdoing. The court did not agree to grant the order and encouraged Scott and Snipes to come to a compromise, which they did. Both parties agreed to add three extra deputies, who do not report directly to Snipes, to the vote-counting site. (A duplicate of this suit was filed in Palm Beach County.)
- Filed Sunday, Nov. 10: Rick Scott for Senate v. Brenda Snipes. Scott’s campaign is asking the court to order that ballots which weren’t included in the unofficial count Snipes submitted to the Secretary of State by the noon Saturday deadline NOT be included in the final count due on Nov. 18, unless they are overseas or military absentee ballots. The campaign’s lawyers ask the court to require Snipes to separate any ballots fitting these characteristics out of the official count.
- Filed Friday, Nov. 9: Matt Caldwell v. Brenda Snipes. The Campaign to Elect Matt Caldwell Agriculture Commissioner is asking the court to order the Supervisor of Elections to count only absentee ballots received before 7 p.m. on Election Day and to void any absentee ballots received after that state-mandated deadline. The campaign’s lawyers argue that since Snipes did not provide a complete count of total absentee ballots received on Election Day and that number has increased since then, a court order is required to ensure the Supervisor of Elections doesn’t count those ballots.
- Filed Thursday, Nov. 8: Rick Scott for Senate v. Brenda Snipes. After failing to receive a total count of early votes and absentee ballots from the Supervisor of Elections by Election Day, the Scott campaign filed a suit claiming Snipes was violating the Public Records Act by not providing the information, and asked the court to demand she turn the information over. The court agreed and ordered Snipes to produce the information by Friday night, which the Scott campaign said her office did.
Palm Beach County lawsuits:
- Filed Monday, Nov. 11: Rick Scott for Senate v. Susan Bucher. In this case, Scott’s Senate campaign is asking the court to order that all voting-counting machines and ballots be secured by members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement when they are not in use during the recount. The rationale for doing this, Scott’s lawyers argue, is to restore eroding public trust in the outcome of the election. This lawsuit is a duplicate of one filed in Broward County.
- Filed Thursday, Nov. 8: Rick Scott for Senate v. Susan Bucher. The Scott campaign alleged that staff members with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office improperly filled out duplicate ballots for damaged absentee ballots without witnesses and for absentee ballots that had overvotes and undervotes, in violation of state law. The campaign’s lawyers asked the court to order all damaged ballots and their duplicates be turned over to the campaign to review. The court agreed and ordered those ballots be turned over to the campaign by Saturday at noon, though the judge expressed doubts the Supervisor would meet the order.
While the lawsuits filed in state court seek courts to order specific actions to enforce existing state election law that would exclude certain ballots from being counted, lawyers for Nelson and the Democratic National Committee, in two separate suits, argue the application of state laws in these ways would disenfranchise voters in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
- Filed Monday, Nov. 11: Democratic National Committee et. al. v. Ken Detzner. In this case, Democratic groups argue the court should order that absentee ballots received after 7 p.m. Election Day be counted because the state law setting that deadline “infringes upon the fundamental right to vote” and is therefore unconstitutional.
- Filed Thursday, Nov. 8: Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate v. Ken Detzner. Nelson’s campaign is asking the court to order that vote-by-mail ballots not be rejected solely on the basis of a rejected signature match and to extend the deadline for local canvassing boards to finish reviewing ballots until the signature issue is remedied. The campaign’s lawyers argue the signature matching system the state uses is “standardless” and infringes on voters’ First and 14th Amendment rights.
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