Florida COVID-19 Election Relief
Neilsen v. DeSantis
Ahead of Florida’s August primary, we sued the state and all its 67 County Supervisors of Elections over vote by mail restrictions that unfairly burden elderly, low-income, and student voters. On behalf of Priorities USA, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, Alianza for Progress, and individual voters, we challenged the State’s refusal to count ballots that are not received by 7:00 PM on Election Day, prohibition on paid organizers helping voters return their completed and sealed mail ballots, and lack of pre-paid postage for vote by mail ballots. All of these restrictions make it harder to vote by mail, and are exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida Ballot Order
Jacobson v. Lee
Constitutional challenge to Florida’s ballot order statute, which requires that candidates of the political party of the Governor be listed first on the ballot in all elections. Expert analysis shows that the first listed candidate on the ballot receives a certain percentage of additional votes solely due to position, and in Florida, Republican Party candidates receive a 5.35 percentage point average advantage in elections in the State. We contend that the statute unduly burdens the right to vote in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and treats similarly situated candidates differently without sufficient justification, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Florida Early Vote
LWVF v. Lee
Constitutional challenge to the Florida Secretary of State’s restrictive interpretation of the early voting statute to prohibit the placement of early voting sites on college campuses. We successfully obtained a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Secretary from enforcing the statute consistent with that interpretation and affirmatively restoring to the local supervisors of election the discretion to offer early voting on campuses. The district court judge found that the Secretary’s interpretation violated not just the Equal Protection Clause, but also the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, creating important new precedent in voting rights cases that challenge elections procedures that can be shown to intentionally discriminate against young voters.
Florida Congressional Redistricting
LWV of Florida v. Detzner
State constitutional challenge to Florida’s congressional districts. In 2010 a Fair Districts Amendment was added to the Florida Constitution with the stated purpose of prohibiting partisan gerrymandering. In 2012, the Florida Legislature passed a new congressional redistricting plan, which did exactly what the Fair Districts Amendment was designed to prevent. We filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin the plan, based on its unconstitutional partisan intent. The trial court found the plan unconstitutional with respect to only two districts. The parties cross-appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which affirmed the trial court’s finding of unconstitutional intent but reversed its final judgment because it had not gone far enough to require the Legislature to correct the constitutional deficiencies. On remand, the trial court adopted an expansive remedial map, which was upheld on appeal.
Florida Signature Match (2016)
Florida Democratic Party v. Detzner
Constitutional challenge to Florida’s vote-by-mail signature match law, which required election officials to reject a vote-by-mail ballot based a signature mismatch but failed to provide any opportunity to cure. We successfully obtained a preliminary injunction requiring the Florida Secretary of State to provide voters whose vote-by-mail ballots were rejected in the 2016 election based on an alleged signature mismatch an opportunity to cure. After this victory, the Florida Legislature amended the law to provide a statutory opportunity to cure vote-by-mail ballots.
Florida Hurricane Matthew Registration Deadline Extension
Florida Democratic Party v. Scott
Successfully obtained court-ordered extension of deadlines for voter registration following Hurricane Matthew. After Hurricane Matthew slammed into Florida on October 6, 2016, causing significant destruction and power outages throughout the state, then-Governor Rick Scott refused to extend the voter registration deadline and the deadline for local election officials to designate early voting sites. We filed an emergency lawsuit seeking an immediate injunction, requiring Governor Scott to extend the voter registration and the early voting site-designation deadlines. The court granted our motion and issued our requested emergency injunction in full, which required the State to extend all relevant deadlines.
Florida State Legislative Redistricting
In re Senate Joint Resolution of Legislative Apportionment 1176
State constitutional challenge to Florida’s state legislative districts. In 2012, the Florida Legislature passed Joint Resolution 1176, apportioning the state into 120 State House and 40 State Senate districts. The Attorney General was required by the Florida Constitution to file a petition in the Florida Supreme Court seeking a declaratory judgment to determine the validity of the redistricting plans. We filed an opposition on behalf of the Florida Democratic Party based on the plans’ failure to abide by the new state constitutional prohibition on partisan gerrymandering. While the Florida Supreme Court found the Florida House of Representatives plan to be constitutionally valid, it struck down the Senate plan as “rife with objective indicators of improper intent.”
Florida Signature Mismatch (2018)
DNC v. Lee
Challenged Florida’s standard less process of rejecting mail-in and provisional ballots based on a perceived mismatch between the signature on the ballot and the signature in that voter’s registration record. After the district court granted a preliminary injunction and the Eleventh Circuit denied a stay of that injunction, Florida passed SB 7066, which, among other things, extends the deadline to cure vote-by-mail and provisional ballots to two days after the election; requires the Secretary of State to provide signature matching training to supervisors of elections and canvassing boards; and requires any signature mismatch determinations to be made by a majority of the canvassing board, subject to a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. SB 7066’s enactment mooted this litigation.