Think your ballot counts in Florida? If legislation passes this session, you may never know…

One in 20 ballots cast by the 56.6k 18-21 year-olds in Florida who voted by mail in the 2018 General Election were rejected as invalid by county Canvassing Boards. This figure is even higher than in previous election years, as I found in my report for ACLU Florida.

I suspect that federal Judge Mark Walker, who ruled prior to the 2018 General Election that Florida voters should have an opportunity to cure their vote-by-mail ballots if they they had a problem with their signature, might be surprised by this figure.

Perhaps I’ll write more about this troubling statistic. Or perhaps not.

It will depend on whether election records in Florida remain open to the public for scrutiny.

Chances are, they may not be.  So much for the “Sunshine State.”

Republican Representative Cyndi Stevenson has introduced HB 218, https://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=63174, which is similar to Republican Senator Tom Lee’s SB 342, https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00342.*

The bills are a follow-up to a 2018 bill (HB 761) filed by Representative Stevenson, which would have kept voter information secret. That bill passed 10-0 out of committee. There was no public discussion or debate.

Sure, there some privacy issues that may concern some people when voter registration records available to the public.  But open record laws are essential if you want to ensure you haven’t been kicked off the voter rolls or to ensure that that ballot that you cast actually is counted.

Do you know if you were one of the 35k voters in Florida who had his or her ballot rejected (either their Vote-by-Mail or their provisional ballot cast at the polls)?

Sadly if this bill passes, in the future, you may never know.

Public records are essential for scholars to be able to dig down into the weeds to ensure the equal protection of voters.  Our ability to do so in Florida hinges on whether the state legislature decides to follow the self-serving recommendation of our elected Supervisors of Elections to restrict voter records and avoid public scrutiny and accountability.

Don’t be fooled about this bill being an effort to protect voters.  If it passes, it will have exactly the opposite effect. Without transparency, voter disenfranchisement becomes much more of a reality.

Don’t let democracy in the Sunshine State die in darkness.

 

*Note: Corrections for 2019 legislation.

 

If I find time, I might start digging a little deeper into patterns of rejected Vote-by-Mail ballots across Florida’s counties…

since it’s something I’ve written about in my report for the @ACLUFL, and since they lie at the heart of Bill Nelson’s Nelson Complaint in federal court challenging invalidated mail ballots due to mismatched signatures.