Civil rights groups sue to extend Florida primary election to March 27

Voter receiving ballot in mail
The suit also calls for mail ballots to allow email and fax transmissions.

A coalition of Civil Rights and other political groups announced late Monday night they have sued Florida in U.S. District Court seeking to extend Tuesday’s primary election another 10 days due to fears that the coronavirus outbreak is preventing voters from getting to the polls.

The coalition, Dream Defenders, New Florida Majority, Organize Florida, Advancement Project National Office, Demos, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF, allege the state failed to extend vote-by-mail deadlines, adjust early voting dates, and expand mail ballot transmission options, and that amounts to a denial of critical voter opportunities in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The state’s refusal to take reasonable emergency election measures will prevent Floridians from participating in Tuesday’s presidential primary elections, the suit charges.

The suit asks the court to order Florida to extend its deadline to March 27 for people to request a vote-by-mail ballot. The complaint also asks the court to allow voters to request ballots be sent to them via email or fax, consistent with military and overseas voter procedures, allow third-party individuals to collect ballots, and allow voters to submit their ballots via fax.

It also demands that the state contact all voters whose polling places have changed as a result of site relocations; that Supervisors of Elections should also attempt to station a poll worker at each of the former voting sites to alert voters that the polling place has changed; the state permit voters to vote curbside with a paper ballot; the state give poll workers discretion to permit voters from vulnerable populations [senior citizens, voters who are immunocompromised, etc.] to move to the front of the line of waiting voters; and the state allow people utilizing vote-by-mail to submit their ballots at a variety of drop boxes, including drop boxes at polling sites that are not their precincts.

“Florida’s presidential primary election is tomorrow and unless immediate action is taken by the state, millions of voters could be disenfranchised,” Rachel Gilmer, co-director of Dream Defenders, stated in a news release issued by the coalition late Monday night. “Thousands of young people who anticipated voting on or near their college campuses were abruptly sent home last week and Florida’s leadership has disregarded them entirely. Other states with primaries on Tuesday have shown leadership we have yet to see from Florida. These students have now missed the deadline to request an absentee ballot and it is only fair that we provide them an opportunity to vote by mail. We must extend the vote by mail deadline until March 27 or we run the risk of massive voter suppression this primary.”

In addition to the presidential primary, there are a number of municipal elections on local ballots throughout Florida.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, against Gov. Ron DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel Lee.

“It’s important for me to be able to mail my vote in because I need my voice to be heard this election,” Terriayna Spillman, a plaintiff in the suit, and a freshman at Bethune Cookman University in Daytona Beach, stated in the news release. “This would be my first time voting in a primary election and contributing to a political change. Not allowing students to mail in our ballots will drive down youth turnout. I hope the state of Florida will do the right thing by extending the mail-in deadline.”

Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio postponed their presidential primary elections over coronavirus concerns.

Andrea Mercado, executive director of New Florida Majority, noted to the Miami Herald that the closing of many polling places will generate confusion. “Extending and expanding vote by mail is common sense,”  she said.

Rachel Gilmer, co-director of Dream Defenders, specifically noted there were many college students who did not anticipate being sent home from campuses this week.

“Thousands of young people who anticipated voting on or near their college campuses were abruptly sent home last week and Florida’s leadership has disregarded them entirely. Other states with primaries on Tuesday have shown leadership we have yet to see from Florida. These students have now missed the deadline to request an absentee ballot and it is only fair that we provide them an opportunity to vote by mail. We must extend the vote by mail deadline until March 27 or we run the risk of massive voter suppression this primary.”

Andrea Mercado, executive director of New Florida Majority, also noted to the Miami Herald that the closing of many polling places will generate confusion. “Extending and expanding vote by mail is common sense,”  she said.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Aimee Sachs, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




Sign up for Sunburn


Categories