Press release

Civil Rights Organizations File Lawsuit To Extend Florida Primary Election Vote-By-Mail Deadline Amidst COVID-19 Outbreak

Group wants vote-by-mail deadline extended to March 27, citing state’s failure to make accommodation for those impacted by the current public health crisis.

TALLAHASSEE – Civil rights organizations have filed a renewed petition in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida against Governor Ron DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee to require the state to extend the vote-by-mail deadline for Tuesday’s Presidential Preference Primary in Florida in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Advancement Project National Office, Demos, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF filed a motion on Tuesday evening on behalf of Dream Defenders, New Florida Majority, Organize Florida, and individual plaintiffs seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction urging defendants Governor DeSantis, Lee, and the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission, to take whatever steps are necessary to permit Floridians unable to vote at the polls Tuesday to request and return a vote-by-mail ballot in the wake of Florida’s primary.

“Tuesday’s election was fraught with confusion, misinformation, and fear. The evidence so far is that election day turnout will be low, and thousands of voters were disenfranchised despite record numbers of voters who voted early and by mail,” the coalition said in a joint statement. “Hundreds of polling locations across the state were closed or consolidated due to poll-workers not showing up or resigning. Despite the difficulties experienced at polling places, the state’s supervisors of elections were making no exceptions to the rules for obtaining emergency vote-by-mail ballots that voters can complete at home and return by the close of polling. This level of dysfunction and poor planning is wrong and has disenfranchised countless Floridians from being able to participate in yesterday’s election.”

Tuesday’s petition came after the group filed suit on March 16, the eve of the election, seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to force the state to make reasonable accommodation for voters impacted by COVID-19. Early Tuesday morning, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle denied the requests but recognized the seriousness of the threat presented by the coronavirus crisis and left open the possibility of appropriate post-election measures.

The complaint requests that Florida amend its vote-by-mail process by:

  • Extending the deadline for people to request a vote-by-mail ballot to March 24th;
  • Allowing voters to request ballots be sent to them via e-mail or fax consistent with military and overseas voter procedures, and
  • Allowing third-party individuals to collect ballots from those utilizing vote-by-mail and drop off these ballots at drop boxes

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Advancement Project National Office is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change. Visit www.advancementproject.org

Demos is a dynamic think-and-do tank that powers the movement for a just, inclusive, multiracial democracy. Through cutting-edge policy research, inspiring litigation, and deep relationships with grassroots organizations, Demos champions solutions that will create a democracy and economy rooted in racial equity. To learn more visit www.demos.org.

The New Florida Majority (NewFM) is an independent political organization working to increase the voting and political power of historically marginalized and excluded constituencies toward an inclusive, equitable, and just Florida. For more information on NewFM, please visit our Website at www.newfloridamajority.org

Dream Defenders is an organization of multiracial, young people in Florida founded in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s murder that are organizing towards a new vision for safety away from prisons. To learn more about us, please visit dreamdefenders.org.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education. For more than 40 years, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has acted as an advocate against injustices throughout New York and beyond. To learn more about LatinoJustice, visit www.latinojustice.org