Officials in Florida attempted to prevent federal election monitors from entering polling sites in a few counties, alleging that state law does not permit Justice Department personnel to be present in voting places.
In a Monday letter to a Justice Department official, Brad McVay, general counsel for the Florida Department of State, argued against the possibility of federal monitors entering polling places on Election Day.
The letter was a response to the department’s declaration that it will send monitors to polling places in 64 jurisdictions across 24 states, including Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties in Florida. The department stated that the action, which is standard procedure on election day, was intended to assure compliance with federal voting rights rules and “protect the rights of all individuals to obtain the ballot.”
The Florida letter, which was backed by Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, stated that Justice Department poll observers are not permitted to enter Florida polling sites for in-person monitoring, citing a state statute that specifies who is and is not permitted to “enter any polling room or polling place.” According to the letter, Justice Government personnel are not on the list, and the department has not supplied evidence to justify “federal interference.”
The letter also claimed that allowing federal law enforcement to access polling places “would be counterproductive and might potentially erode faith in the election” and stated that Florida intends to send its own monitors to voting stations in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach instead.
During a news conference on Tuesday, Byrd stated, “We wanted to make it obvious that these locations are exclusively for election workers and voters.” “The states have constitutional control over polling places, unless Congress passes legislation… We anticipate [the Department of Justice] to adhere to Florida law.”
The move comes after Missouri officials informed the Justice Department that election observers would not be permitted in certain polling locations.
Cole County, Missouri, which contains the state capital Jefferson City, appears on the Justice Department’s list of jurisdictions to monitor, and county officials have taken similar measures to keep federal observers away from voting places. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft of Missouri stated over the weekend that he supports County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer’s efforts to exclude the monitors.
“Under Missouri law, the local election authority has the ability to determine who, other than voters and poll workers, may be present at polling places,” tweeted Ashcroft. The secretary of state’s office fully supports Cole County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer’s decision not to permit this overreach.