Florida rejects federal monitors inside polling places: ‘Not permitted’
‘The presence of federal law enforcement inside polling places would be counterproductive and could potentially undermine confidence in the election’
By Brianna Herlihy | Fox News
The DeSantis administration warned Biden’s Department of Justice late Monday that federal Election Day poll monitors are “not permitted” inside polling places under Florida law, and said Florida will send its own monitors to “ensure there is no interference in the voting process.”
On Monday, the DOJ released a list of 64 jurisdictions within 24 states in which the department plans to send attorneys to “monitor for compliance with federal voting rights laws” on Election Day. Included in that list are Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in Florida.
Brad McVay, general counsel to Florida’s Department of State, told the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in a Monday letter that the DOJ “seem[ed] to indicate” that these monitors will be placed inside polling places. However, he said that is not permitted.
“Section 102.031(3)(a) of the Florida Statutes lists the people who ‘may enter any polling room or polling place,'” McVay wrote. “Department of Justice personnel are not included on the list.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s Department of State has warned the DOJ that its poll monitors are not allowed inside polling places. (James Gilbert/Getty Images)
“Even if they could qualify as ‘law enforcement’… absent some evidence concerning the need for federal intrusion, or some federal statute that preempts Florida law, the presence of federal law enforcement inside polling places would be counterproductive and could potentially undermine confidence in the election,” McVay warned.
The DOJ’s announcement that it will deploy poll watchers is in keeping with the department’s standard procedure every election year, but with a noticeable uptick in the number of covered jurisdictions this year. The Trump-era DOJ deployed monitors in 2018 to 25 jurisdictions and in 2020 to 44 jurisdictions. During Obama’s last term in 2016, the DOJ sent monitors to 67 jurisdictions.
The DOJ says the monitors’ enforcement focus will be to “enforce the civil provisions of federal statutes that protect the right to vote, including the Voting Rights Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Help America Vote Act and the Civil Rights Acts.”
“The division’s Disability Rights Section enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure that persons with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote,” the department said. The division’s Criminal Section will enforce “federal criminal statutes that prohibit voter intimidation and voter suppression based on race, color, national origin or religion.”
McVay added in his letter that the DOJ has failed to “detail the need for federal monitors” in the three Florida counties.
“None of the counties are currently subject to any election-related federal consent decrees,” McVay claimed in his letter. “None of the counties have been accused of violating the rights of language or racial minorities or of the elderly or disabled.”
“Your letters simply provide a non-exhaustive list of federal elections statutes as the basis for this action without pointing to any specific statutory authorization,” McVay said. He also noted that during a Monday phone call between his office and DOJ, he asked for “specific statutory authorization” which was not provided to him on the call.
McVay concluded by notifying the DOJ that the Florida Department of State “invokes its authority” under a section a Florida statue that says “upon the written direction of the Secretary of State, any employee of the Department of State having expertise in the matter of concern to the Secretary of State shall have full access to all premises, records, equipment, and staff of the supervisor of elections,” and will send its own monitors to the three targeted jurisdictions.
“These monitors will ensure that there is no interference with the voting process,” McVay continued.
The DOJ declined to comment.
Fox News’ Eben Brown contributed to this report.