Saturday, March 20, 2021

Committee Bill Filed to Implement Transparency, Election Safeguard Measures Proposed by Governor DeSantis

We posted here that Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed measures to provide transparency and security measures to safeguard our elections in Florida. 

Some of DeSantis proposals are already included in SB90:

  • Addressing mail ballot drop boxes
  • Measures to prevent ballot harvesting
  • No mass mailing of ballots
  • Mail ballot requests must be made each election year 
  • Signature on mail ballots must match the most recent signature on file.

Now Committee Bill PCB PIE 21-05 has been filed to implement other measures DeSantis proposed. These safeguard measures will ensure transparency in our elections process and reporting:

  • Political parties and candidates cannot be shut out of observing the signature validation process
  • Supervisor of Elections must post over-vote ballots on their website before the canvassing board meets
  • Prohibits the use of private funds for election related expenses, voter education or registration programs (e.g. Zuckerberg grants)
  • Requires real time reporting of voter turn out data by precinct level
  • Supervisor of Elections must report how many ballots requested, how many received and how many left to be counted
  • Mail ballot drop boxes manned by sworn election officials or law enforcement can only be used during the early voting hours of operation and must have video surveillance.
  • $25,000 penalty to the Supervisor of Election (SOE) if any mail ballot drop box is accessible for ballot receipt when early voting is not underway
Some other highlighted elements of PCB PIE 21-05 include:
  • DMV must notify the SOE of voter address or name changes and SOE must take action accordingly 
  • Requirement that phone calls to SOE to change party affiliation must also include the last 4 of Social Security Number or Drivers License number  
  • SOE must notify political parties of signature deficiency 
  • 22 month retention requirement for all election materials, including ballots 
  • Duplication of damaged mail ballot must be performed in an open and accessible room, duplicate ballots must be on a different color paper
  • Images of original and duplicate mail ballot must be made available to political parties and candidates, objections must be turned over to canvassing board, ballot serial # recorded in minutes and majority of canvassing board decide the objection
  • Telephone requests for mail ballots must include the last 4 of Social Security number or Drivers License number
  • SOE may not send a mail ballot unless requested by a voter
  • Requires mail ballot return envelope to contain voter name, address and encoded mark for SOE to sort envelope or image of envelope by precinct
  • SOE must record a digital image of signature on voter's certificate or cure affidavit, candidates and political parties must be allowed access to view through password protected website, specified images must be available 48 hours before opening and separating ballot from envelope, in 5 day period preceding election day, 24 hours before separating and on election day, 2 hours before separating, voters also may access these images at a secure workstation at an SOE office with the same time periods 
  • Video surveillance of mail ballot drop boxes must be retained and made available within 24 hours of a request 
  • Requires names of canvassing board to be published before any mail ballots are distributed
  • Except for someone who can be authorized, anyone caught requesting or in possession of another's mail ballot is subject to first degree misdemeanor
  • Anyone who misuses a voter signature obtained from voter record commits a second degree felony
As we previously reported, twelve counties received Mark Zuckerberg funded grants from the partisan nonprofit Center for Tech and Civil Life (CTCL). Eleven of the counties took the money: Hillsborough, Hernando, Alachua, Wakulla, Osceola, Miami-Dade, Lake, Leon, Broward, Brevard, Palm Beach with Escambia rejecting the grant dollars. 

From public records requests, almost $15.6 million of Zuckerberg grant money was handed to 9 counties. Osceola and Miami-Dade has not yet responded to requests for this information.

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer handed $2.5 million, the vast majority of the $2.9 million he received, to a PR firm Vistra Communications. How did Vistra spend all that money in about 30-40 days? Good question.

We anticipate more to come regarding the Zuckerberg grant money in Florida as we review more documentation and information from the counties who requested Zuckerberg funded grants.

The two bills referenced above will strengthen the chain of custody for mail ballots, help prevent ballot harvesting, help keep voter rolls up to date, bring more transparency to the signature validation and tabulation process to ensure all LEGAL votes are received and counted. 

And it is very good PCB PIE 21-05 will prohibit outside entities from handing money to any agency or state or local official responsible for election activities. Private funding of election activities is not only unethical but could also be illegal violating both equal protection and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Remember the CARES Act passed last March provided $400 million in supplemental Help America Vote Act (HAVA) emergency funds to states to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus for the 2020 federal election cycle. This money was distributed by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) directly to the states to help protect the 2020 elections from the effects of the coronavirus. 

According to the EAC website, Florida received $20.25 million of the HAVA emergency funds from the CARES Act last year. Florida also received $21.6 million in 2020 and $19.2 million in 2018 EAC federal grants for Election Security from the HAVA Act.  

Florida received about $60 million in federal grants from the EAC over just 2 years. So why were local SOE's requesting funding from a partisan outside entity? 

As we previously reported, the CTCL nonprofit Zuckerberg funded, was founded by a very partisan Progressive activist Tiana Epps-Johnson. Epps-Johnson was formerly associated with the Progressive organization, New Organizing Institute (NOI). The partisan NOI, who the Washington Post called "the left's think tank for campaign know-how", provided training for Democrat Party digital organizers.

Florida must not be targeted by anyone attempting to create any of the election chaos we witnessed in some swing states and counties last year. We can always improve and strengthen the integrity and transparency of our election process.

Strong processes prevent errors, provides accountability and the ability to properly audit.

And Sunshine is always a good disinfectant.

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