Florida officials have sought to block federal election observers from entering polling places in a handful of counties, arguing that Justice Department staff do not have the authority to be present at the offices. voting under state law.
In a letter Monday to a Justice Department official, Brad McVay, general counsel for the Florida Department of State, pushed back against the prospect of federal monitors entering polling places on Election Day.
The letter came in response to an announcement by the department that it was sending monitors to polling places in 64 jurisdictions across 24 states, including Florida’s Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. The department said the move, which is common on election days, was to ensure compliance with federal voting rights laws and “protect the rights of all citizens to vote.”
Supported by Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, Florida’s letter said Justice Department poll watchers are not permitted to enter Florida polling places for in-person monitoring, citing a state law that lists who is and is not allowed to “enter a polling room or polling place.” Justice Department personnel are not on the list, the letter says, and the department has provided no evidence that would justify a “federal intrusion”.
The letter also suggested that allowing federal law enforcement to enter polling places “would be counterproductive and could potentially undermine confidence in the election” and said Florida planned to send its own monitors to polling stations. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach polling places instead.
“We wanted to make it clear that these are places for election workers and for voters, not for anyone else,” Byrd said at a press conference Tuesday. “The states have constitutional authority over polling places, unless Congress enacts the law… We expect that [the Department of Justice will] abide by Florida law.”
The move comes after Missouri officials also told the Justice Department that monitors would not be allowed inside some polling places.
Cole County in Missouri, encompassing the state capital Jefferson City, was on the Justice Department’s list of jurisdictions to watch, and authorities took similar steps to keep federal observers away from polling places. . Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said over the weekend that he supported county clerk Steve Korsmeyer’s efforts to keep monitors out.
“Under Missouri law, the local election authority has the authority to decide who, other than voters and election officials, may be at polling places,” Ashcroft wrote on Twitter. “Cole County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer rightfully refused to authorize this overbreadth and the Secretary of State’s office fully supports him.”