Barack Obama appointed US District Judge Mark Walker made a stunning decison today that would give voters until 5 p.m. Saturday to fix ballots that were rejected because of mismatched signatures.
According to Miami CBS Local – U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling came hours before a 3 p.m. Thursday deadline for a machine recount to be completed in the U.S. Senate race between Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, whose 56,000-vote election-night lead had dwindled to fewer than 13,000 votes when the recount was ordered.
The lawsuit focuses on part of Florida law that requires signatures on mail-in and provisional ballots to match signatures on file with elections offices. Voters whose ballots are delivered by 5 p.m. the day before an election have the opportunity to “cure” signature mismatches. But people whose mail-in ballots are received after that, or voters who cast provisional ballots on Election Day, do not.
County canvassing boards make decisions about whether signatures match, and thus whether ballots should be counted. But counties don’t have uniform regulations to govern the decisions, Democrats argued, making the process unconstitutional.
The judge agreed.
“The precise issue, in this case, is whether Florida’s law that allows county election officials to reject vote-by-mail and provisional ballots for mismatched signatures — with no standards, an illusory process to cure, and no process to challenge the rejection — passes constitutional muster. The answer is simple. It does not,” Walker wrote in a 34-page order.
Walker called the opportunity to fix a ballot “the last chance a vote-by-mail voter has to save their vote from being rejected and not counted.”
“Florida law provides no opportunity for voters to challenge the determination of the canvassing board that their signatures do not match, and their votes do not count,” he wrote.
In contrast, the law allows voters or candidates to challenge signatures that were accepted, Walker noted.
Nelson’s campaign lawyer Marc Elias released a statement Thursday, “Today’s decision is a victory for the people of Florida and for the Nelson campaign as we pursue our goal of making sure every legal ballot is counted. The court’s ruling impacts thousands of ballots, and that number will likely increase as larger counties like Broward add their ballots to the total pool which can be cured. We are taking several steps to ensure the rights of every Floridian are protected, and this is one major step forward.”
YEAH…OKAY Judge Walker…What about the Democrat leader who directed their staffers and volunteers to share altered election forms with voters to fix signature problems on absentee ballots after the state’s deadline?
Naples News is now reporting – A day after Florida’s election left top state races too close to call, a Democratic party leader directed staffers and volunteers to share altered election forms with voters to fix signature problems on absentee ballots after the state’s deadline.
The altered forms surfaced in Broward, Santa Rosa, Citrus and Okaloosa counties and were reported to federal prosecutors to review for possible election fraud as Florida counties complete a required recount in three top races.
But an email obtained by the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida shows that Florida Democrats were organizing a broader statewide effort beyond those counties to give voters the altered forms to fix improper absentee ballots after the Nov. 5 deadline. Democratic party leaders provided staffers with copies of a form, known as a “cure affidavit,” that had been modified to include an inaccurate Nov. 8 deadline.
Jake Sanders, a Democratic campaign consultant based in Treasure Coast who saw the email, told the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida that he warned party staffers about the legality of the email, but was ignored.
“I warned FDP staff members of the questionable legal status of altering a state form and misleading people their vote would be counted before the court case played out,” Sanders said. “And coordinated campaign leadership told them to keep pushing it that ‘We are exhausting every possibility’.”
Sanders said the legality of the email was never discussed.
To Sanders, the party was not being upfront with voters and “undermining making sure every vote counts.”
“They should have been saying, ‘This is unprecedented. We are fighting for your vote to count. Fill this out so we can fight for you.’ But self-imposing a fake deadline and deceiving people is counter to that,” Sanders said.
One Palm Beach Democratic activist said in an interview the idea was to have voters fix and submit as many absentee ballots as possible with the altered forms in hopes of later including them in vote totals if a judge ruled such ballots were allowed.
U.S. Chief Judge Mark Walker ruled Thursday that voters should have until Saturday to correct signatures on ballots, a move that could open the door for these ballots returned with altered forms to be counted. Republicans supporting Gov. Rick Scott, who leads U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by less than 13,000 votes in the recount, appealed the ruling.