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AG Nessel Joins Coalition of 17 Attorneys General Opposing Florida's Defense of Discriminatory Voting Law
September 06, 2022
Coalition Files Amicus Brief Supporting Mail-In & Drop Box Voting; Opposing Florida’s Attempt to Uphold Restrictive Law That Was Already Struck Down in Court.
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined 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, the coalition supports a challenge to portions of SB90, a law that decreases voting opportunities 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 they argue that election security can be protected while increasing—not limiting—access to the ballot.
"This is yet another attempt to disenfranchise those who use mail-in and drop-box voting the most," Nessel said. "That the State of Florida is defending this bill in court is dubious because the bill has no defense. Its intent is clear: to favor one party over another in elections by suppressing votes of minorities. SB 90 is a solution in search of a problem. Large-scale voter fraud is extremely rare. We can protect the integrity of the ballot while still ensuring that everyone has access to it. I gladly stand with my fellow attorneys general in opposing Florida's restrictive new voting law."
In the brief, the coalition argues that:
- Mail-in voting and the use of drop boxes are well-established practices in Florida and around the country, and neither has given rise to substantial fraud: Voting by mail or drop box is nothing new and is not a major driver of fraud. From 2000 until the 2020 election, more than 250 million votes were cast using mail-in ballots in all fifty states, as well as the District of Columbia. And 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 certainly true in Florida, where state leaders hailed the efficiency and security of the election despite a 78% increase in the number of mail-in votes compared with the 2016 general election. There is no justification for Florida to now take steps to limit mail-in voting and the use of ballot drop boxes.
- States have a multitude of ways to protect election integrity without stripping voters of reliable and safe 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, criminal and civil penalties provide a strong deterrent to voter fraud: an individual convicted of voter fraud in a federal election is subject to a $10,000 fine and up to a five-year term of imprisonment. And many states—including Florida—also punish voter fraud with fines and potential prison time under state law.
- Voter confidence is a complex issue, which SB90 does not actually address: 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. Indeed, by most measures, voter confidence—nationally and in Florida in particular—is quite high. SB90 also does not target any of the known drivers of confidence and, if anything, it is likely to impair 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 if a clear error was made 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 went through thousands of pages of documents.
A copy of the as-filed amicus brief is available here.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine and New York Attorney General Letitia James led the amicus brief and were joined by Attorneys General from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington.