Florida Democrats ask Merrick Garland to investigate 'partisan efforts at voter suppression

Florida Democrats ask Merrick Garland to investigate 'partisan efforts at voter suppression

Although Democrats have had their share of disappointments in Florida — from former President Donald Trump winning the state in 2016 and 2020 to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ narrow victory in 2018 — Florida Republicans have been aggressively promoting voter suppression. And ten Florida Democrats are asking Attorney General Merrick Garland for a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

On January 12, the group of Democrats — led by Rep. Val Demings — sent a letter to Garland that, according to Miami Herald reporter Bryan Lowry, “cites DeSantis’ proposal to establish a state office to investigate election crimes and to make ballot harvesting a third-degree felony.”

The Democrats told Garland, “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.”

Demings and others expressed their opposition to Florida Senate Bill 90, which was passed in 2021 and, among other things, makes it illegal to send voters unsolicited mail ballots.

“Last year, state lawmakers made various changes to the state’s voting laws, including limiting the use of vote-by-mail drop boxes to early voting hours and outlawing the possession of two or more vote-by-mail ballots — an attempt to crack down on so-called ‘ballot harvesting,’” Lowry reports. “Republicans and Democrats alike have relied on ballot harvesting — where candidates or volunteers go door to door collecting voters’ mail-in ballots — to turn out the vote for the last two decades.”

Lowry adds, “Four federal lawsuits challenging the bill are set to go to trial this month…. This year, (DeSantis) wants lawmakers to pass additional legislation, including creating a new election security office with 45 investigators, and making ballot harvesting a felony. He’s also said he wants to ban the use of ballot drop boxes.”

Florida will have some important statewide races in the 2022 midterms. The well-funded DeSantis is running for reelection, and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is seeking a third term. Demings is among the Florida Democrats who is running for that U.S. Senate seat and hopes to compete with Rubio in the general election if she receives her party’s nomination.

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