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Attorney General Ellison fights Florida's discriminatory voting law in court

Joins coalition supporting mail-in and drop-box voting, opposing Florida’s attempt to defend restrictive law that was already struck down in court

 

August 18, 2022



August 17, 2022 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General joined today a group of 17 attorneys general opposing Florida’s discriminatory law that would make it more difficult for millions of Floridians — especially the elderly, disabled, and communities of color — to vote.

In an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in the case of League of Women Voters of Florida v. Florida Secretary of State, Attorney General Ellison and the coalition support a challenge to portions of SB90, a law that limits opportunities for people to vote by restricting the use of drop boxes for ballot collection. A lower court already struck down portions of SB90, finding that they were enacted to unlawfully burden Black voters by limiting when drop boxes could be used and where they could be placed in a way that was intentionally discriminatory. The attorneys general filed their brief in support of the lower court’s decision and argue that election security can be protected while increasing — not limiting — access to the ballot.

“America is stronger when more people participate in our elections and our civic life — not fewer. We Minnesotans — who vote at the highest rate in the country in America’s best-run elections — know this better than anyone else. People organized hard for this, we’re proud of it, and we have a right to be,” Attorney General Ellison said. “I intervened in this Florida case because my job in protecting Minnesotans’ hard-won freedoms doesn’t end at Minnesota’s borders. All Minnesotans have an interest in elections being run fairly, inclusively, and without discrimination in Florida and every state.”

In the brief, Attorney General Ellison and the coalition argue that:

• Mail-in voting and the use of drop boxes are well-established practices in Florida and around the country. Voting by mail or drop box is not new. From 2000 until the 2020 election, more than 250 million votes were cast using mail-in ballots in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. An additional 66 million voters cast their ballots this way in the 2020 general election. Even with this historic increase, states were able to put in place — or had already implemented — adequate systems to ensure election integrity. That was true in Florida, where state leaders hailed the efficiency and security of the election in the wake of a 78% increase in the number of mail-in votes compared with the 2016 general election. There is no justification for Florida now to take steps to limit mail-in voting and the use of ballot drop boxes.

• States have many ways to protect election integrity without stripping voters of safe and reliable voting methods. There are many standards that states, including Florida, can and do use to protect ballots, however they are returned. For example, many states require mail-in-ballot envelopes to contain unique bar codes, which enables election officials to accurately track ballot processing. There are also proven methods to ensure the security of drop boxes in particular, many of which Florida already employed before SB90. Additionally, existing federal and state criminal and civil penalties provide a strong deterrent to voter fraud.

• SB90 does not actually address “voter confidence.” Voter confidence encompasses beliefs about a range of issues, from how democratic a system is in general to how fair specific election practices are. Yet Florida never explains what it means by “voter confidence,” how SB90’s specific measures will improve voter confidence, or what evidence supports the alleged issue with voter confidence in the state. If anything, SB90 is likely to impair voters’ confidence by making it more difficult to vote.

• The district court’s decision was sound and should not be reversed. The appellate court may only reverse the district court’s findings regarding the discriminatory intent behind SB90 the trial court made a clear error in its review of the facts of the case. But the trial court was extremely thorough: it held a 10-day hearing, heard from 42 witnesses, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents.

Joining Attorney General Ellison in the amicus brief are District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine and New York Attorney General Letitia James, who led the brief, and the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington.

 

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