DeSantis official says Justice Dept. can’t send monitors to 3 Florida counties

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The DeSantis administration is seeking to block judicial election monitors from gaining access to South Florida polling places, saying in a letter that the federal government’s involvement is “counterfeit” and violates state law.

The Justice Department announced Monday that it will send federal monitors to 64 jurisdictions nationwide to oversee how elections are conducted. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are slated to receive federal monitors from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

But Florida Department of State chief counsel Brad McVay said in a letter late Monday that those monitors are not allowed at polling places under Florida law.

McVay said Florida’s secretary of state’s office — overseen by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — will instead send its own monitors to those three counties, some of Florida’s most Democratic-leaning counties.

“Florida statutes list people who may ‘enter any polling room or polling place,'” McVay wrote. “Justice Department personnel are not included in the list.”

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The Justice Department is sending Election Day monitors to 64 jurisdictions

The Justice Department said Tuesday that it had received the DeSantis administration’s letter and still placed election monitors outside Florida polling places.

While Florida law contains an exemption allowing law enforcement to enter polling places, Justice Department monitors are not eligible, McVay said.

“Absent some evidence of a need for federal intrusion or some federal statute preempting the Florida law, the presence of federal law enforcement at polling places is counterproductive and may undermine confidence in the election,” McVay wrote.

“None of the counties are currently subject to any election-related federal consent decrees,” McVay added. “None of the counties have been accused of violating the rights of language or ethnic minorities or the elderly or disabled.”

The Justice Department has been monitoring local election procedures across the country since 1965, according to a news release announcing the monitoring locations.

Despite little evidence of fraud in the 2020 election, Republicans have waged a sustained campaign against alleged voter fraud over the past two years, and threats against politicians, their families and election workers have increased across the country.

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Election officials in battleground states are expecting delayed results and protracted battles after polls close on Tuesday night.

Separately, Missouri officials on Friday declined a Justice Department request to conduct routine checks under the Americans with Disabilities and Voting Rights Act at polling places. Secretary of State John Ashcroft (R) reiterated that position at Monday’s meeting.

He told The Washington Post that the Justice Department’s presence amounted to an attempt to “intimidate the local election authority” and could “intimidate and suppress the vote.”

Ashcroft and Cole County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer (R) said federal officials would not be permitted to visit polling places Tuesday.

“This is not the Voting Rights Act. This is the Americans with Disabilities Act. what next He wants to be in the election because he wants to check whether the insulation in the building was bought from China in the 1970s? Give me a break,” Ashcroft said in a phone interview.

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He compared Justice Department officials in the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri to “jackboot thugs” and armed men in Arizona patrolling ballot drop boxes.

“I think we already have lawsuits around the country about individuals around polling places,” Ashcroft said. “And they were told they should stay away from them because they intimidate voters.” Justice Department officials last observed Missouri elections at polling places in St. Louis in 2016.

FBI special agents acting as election crime coordinators are on duty at the bureau’s 56 field offices to receive voting-related complaints from the public, the Justice Department said. Employees of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will man the hotline all day on Election Day, answering calls from people who identify possible violations of federal voting rights laws.

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