TwitterFacebookPinterestGoogle+

Rep. Val Demings Leads Call for DOJ Review to Secure Florida Voting Rights

ORLANDO, FL – Today Rep. Val Demings (FL-10) led a letter signed by all other Democratic members of Florida’s Congressional Delegation to Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for a “a complete and thorough investigation by the Department of Justice to identify and stop any other patterns of voter suppression.” Rep. Demings, a 27-year police officer, also cited the need to keep politics out of criminal investigations of voting integrity.

Said Rep. Demings, “My parents, a maid and a janitor, knew that in the ballot box their vote counted the same as the President of the United States. They always voted because they knew it was their chance to make their voices heard. But throughout Florida’s history, partisan politicians have tried to take away the voices of voters like my parents. To ensure liberty and justice for all, we must have fair election rules and nonpartisan investigations when wrongdoing occurs.

“Floridians deserve safe, secure, and fair elections. The Voting Rights Act, renewed on a bipartisan basis for fifty years, empowered the Department of Justice to protect ordinary Floridians like my parents from discriminatory election meddling. But today partisans in the Senate are blocking these protections for Florida voters while politicians in Florida are working to strip legal voters of their rights, efforts which call back to the darkest points of Florida’s history of voter suppression. The Florida legislature began its 60-day session this week with plans to introduce extreme and unprecedented attacks on our right to vote. The federal government must act to protect Floridians’ civil rights. The Department of Justice must take action.

“Anyone who breaks the law by voting fraudulently should be caught and punished. But as a 27-year police officer and chief of police, I am extremely disturbed to see efforts by partisans here in Florida to politicize criminal investigations, blur existing lines of authority, and hamper the ability of local election officials to properly administer elections.

Background

Florida has long history of voter suppression and efforts to disenfranchise voters. Florida was the first state to collect a poll tax. The original state constitution limited who was able to vote. Florida used poll tests and literacy tests. From 1890 to 1930, hundreds of people lost their lives, including in the 1920 Ocoee Massacre, which occurred on Election Day. On Christmas Day in 1951, a bomb killed Harry Moore, president of the Florida NAACP and the leader of voter registration efforts in Florida. He was the first NAACP official to be murdered for civil rights activism.

Rep. Demings previously cosponsored H.R. 1/S. 1, the For The People Act, which would help secure our democracy: stopping the partisan anti-democratic assault on our democracy from voter suppression, banning the scourge of partisan gerrymandering, stemming the torrent of dark money flooding our elections and empowering small donors. Rep. Demings also cosponsored H.R.4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021, which would revive the Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by Shelby v. Holder in 2013.

In addition, Rep. Demings introduced legislation, the Every Vote Counts Act, to require every state to implement a ballot tracking system for vote by mail, require every county in America to have ballot drop boxes, and require NIST and the Election Assistance Commission to develop standards for alternatives for signature matching verification requirements for vote by mail.

Letter Text

Dear Attorney General Garland:

First of all, we want to thank you for your recent address to the nation regarding accountability and voter protection. Your remarks could not have been more timely in light of recent unprecedented efforts to deny eligible voters access to the ballot box.   We are sending this letter to request that the Department of Justice help protect the security of our electoral process in our home state Florida.  Recent reports are disturbing and we believe these reports demonstrate a clear and convincing pattern of relentless attempts at voter suppression.  In separate but concerning cases, multiple individuals were charged with falsifying voter registration claims and illegally casting ballots in the 2020 federal election.

Unfortunately, Florida has seen a disturbing rise in partisan efforts at voter suppression. Proposed legislation would further criminalize standard “get out the vote” practices, making it a criminal act to, for example, notify a homebound voter of his or her option to request a mail-in ballot. In addition, there is a shameful attempt to reduce the number of drop boxes, particularly in certain precincts, and finally, the imposition of new deadlines on election supervisors to “clean voting rolls,” an all too familiar strategy to purge voters of color throughout the country. Typically, under the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, these proposals would be subject to preclearance. But following the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, partisan actors in Florida have been unleashed to push legislation that restricts voting rights for political gain.

And while voter suppression efforts are ongoing, we are also extremely concerned that investigations into voting integrity are being politicized.

In recent months, four individuals have been arrested in the Villages, a planned community in North Central Florida, for voter fraud. These individuals have been charged with voting multiple times, usually in Florida, but also in other states where they hold residency.

In early December, a woman from Clermont, Florida pleaded “no contest” to 10 counts of submitting false voter registration information ahead of the 2020 presidential primary election. The woman was arrested after the Lake County Supervisor of Elections discovered 119 voter registration applications that appeared to be fraudulent. Another woman in South Florida recently discovered that her party affiliation was changed, from democratic to republican, without her consent. And finally, two men were recently arrested in Jacksonville, Florida, on charges of criminal use of personal identification information, after at least 60 voter registration applications were filed under the names of people who did not give authorization or were deceased.

Let’s be clear: the crimes described above are examples of the system working because these individuals were caught and held accountable. These criminal acts were identified through the diligent work of local election officials with strong records of efficient, transparent, and lawful election facilitation.

Unfortunately, state officials in Florida are instead working to politicize our elections, blur existing lines of authority, and hamper the ability of local election officials to properly administer elections. Harmful proposals to create new partisan bodies to oversee our voting process are exactly the kind of action that demand oversight as we work to ensure that our voting process is unquestionably trustworthy. We believe that there must be a complete and thorough investigation by the Department of Justice to identify and stop any other patterns of voter suppression that threaten the integrity of our electoral process in the state of Florida.

Our republic depends on the integrity of our electoral process and every American deserves to know that, regardless of election outcomes, the process was free and fair. We look forward to your response.

Thank you,

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *