‘Democracy Under Threat’ in Florida: Ballots & Boundaries

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Florida’s election supervisors have a message for elected officials perpetuating lies about voting fraud: Stop it!

“The Great American Experiment, our cherished democracy, is under threat,” according to a memo from Florida Supervisors of Elections, whose membership is bipartisan. The “misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation” about the 2020 presidential vote undermines public trust in the electoral process and has led to threats against the people who run elections, according to the memo.

“Instead of standing idly by, we ask all candidates and elected officials to tone down the rhetoric and stand up for our democracy. We ask that you work with us to understand the safeguards implemented to ensure elections are conducted fairly, securely, and accurately,” the memo said.

A separate memo addresses Florida voters directly, encouraging them to “get the facts” from their local elections officials.

Florida elections supervisors opposed an election-law overhaul Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law this past spring, saying it would make voting by mail more difficult. The law now faces four federal lawsuits brought by voting-rights advocates and other groups.

Meanwhile, DeSantis’ political committee is trying to raise campaign funds off election fraud fears. Friends of Ron DeSantis sent an email accusing Democrats of using the pandemic “as an excuse to change election laws in ways that are unconstitutional and ripe for fraud and abuse in our elections.”

The email blasts the use of private grants for election staffing and equipment, such as grants offered last year through a group funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Florida’s new law would ban elections supervisors from accepting such funding. — Jennifer Kay

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Poll worker Najeh Fisher places vote-by mail ballots being dropped off by voters into a ballot box set up at the Miami-Dade Election Department headquarters on Oct. 14, 2020, in Doral, Fla.

FLORIDA: COUNTING PRISONERS

Florida will count prisoners where they’re incarcerated, not in their home communities, the chair of the state House’s congressional redistricting subcommittee says. “Pursuant to Florida law, we do not manipulate Census data,” Rep. Tyler Sirois (R) told committee members. “What we are given is the data we use.”

The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Kelly Skidmore, had advocated for Florida to join Pennsylvania and other states in counting prisoners in their home communities during the redistricting process. — Jennifer Kay

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LOUISIANA, ALABAMA: URGING MORE BLACK CLOUT

A coalition of civil rights groups want Louisiana lawmakers to create a second majority-Black district to increase the odds that a second Black person could be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the state. A third of Louisiana’s population is Black, according to 2020 Census data, but only one of the state’s six representatives currently in the U.S. House is Black.

Black voters were packed into Congressional District 2, now represented by Troy Carter (D), and Black communities were cracked throughout the state’s other five districts that are majority White and haven’t ever sent a Black representative to Congress, according to a letter signed by the NAACP, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the League of Women Voters, among other state and national organizations. The letter includes seven maps showing how lawmakers might consider drawing a second majority-minority district.

“We urge the state to fully consider and adopt a congressional map that ensures non-dilution of Black voting strength in Louisiana,” according to the letter. “Failure to do so may lead to costly litigation.”

And in Alabama, the Republican-led legislature will convene in special session Thursday to consider a new congressional districts map. The GOP now holds six of the seven districts, with Rep. Terri Sewell (D) representing a district that’s more than 60% Black. Democrats are calling for creation of a second district where Black voters have significant clout. — Jennifer Kay and Greg Giroux

ILLINOIS: COURT FINDS REDISTRICTING PLAN UNCONSTITUTIONAL
A state legislative redistricting plan approved by Illinois lawmakers earlier this year is unconstitutional because the variations in population levels between districts violate the “one-person, one-vote” standard, according to a federal court.

The Illinois General Assembly approved a redistricting plan for the state legislature that took effect in June before receiving official population totals from the 2020 decennial census, which were delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Assembly elected not to wait, and instead relied primarily on data from the American Community Survey, a population estimate previously published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Illinois Republican Party and others sued, alleging the plan violated their equal protection rights.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Oct. 19 largely granted summary judgment to the challengers, but rejected the Republican plaintiffs’ request that it order a legislative redistricting commission to draft a new plan. — Brian Flood

CALIFORNIA: NEWSOM RECALL VICTORY CERTIFIED
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) defeated last month’s recall election with 61.9% of voters choosing not to remove him from office, according to the Secretary of State’s certified results. That’s the exact same vote share Newsom received in his 2018 gubernatorial run against Republican John Cox.

Nearly 12.9 million voters cast a ballot in the recall election, about 400,000 more than voted in the 2018 general election and almost 3.5 million more than in the 2003 gubernatorial recall election. — Tiffany Stecker

WISCONSIN: AUDIT TAKEAWAYS DEPEND ON WHO’S TALKING
The Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau has released a much-anticipated report on the state’s 2020 presidential election and concluded there was no widespread fraud.

But it recommended that the Wisconsin Elections Commission promulgate rules to boost municipal clerk training and develop new data-sharing protocols with the state’s Department of Transportation for verifying voter identification, and 28 additional suggestions.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) used the report to justify his continued push, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, for a Vos-authorized investigation of his state’s 2020 presidential election, citing election-law violations.

Democrats read the report differently. “This report confirms that Wisconsin’s 2020 elections were fair, secure and accurate. The report also contradicts the disingenuous lies legislative Republicans have peddled for the last eleven months in their attempt to breed distrust in our democracy,” Wisconsin Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D) said in a statement. — Stephen Joyce

WISCONSIN: MAPS GET AN ‘F’
The Wisconsin Legislature issued its congressional, state Senate, and state Assembly maps (S.B. 621) last week, and the Princeton Gerrymandering Project awarded an “F” grade to each of the state legislature’s proposed maps, concluding each affords a “significant Republican advantage.” The congressional map received an “F” for competitiveness because only one of the state’s eight districts—the 3rd District seat currently held by Rep. Ron Kind (D), who is not running for re-election—is competitive.

The project also graded work done by the Wisconsin People’s Maps Commission, appointed by Gov. Tony Evers (D) comprising a high school teacher, an emergency-room physician, a dean of students at a tribal high school and five others—one person for each congressional district. The commission’s maps received an “A” for partisan fairness and a “C” for compactness. In the commission’s map, the seats of Reps. Scott Fitzgerald (R), District 5, and Tom Tiffany (R), District 7 are competitive, with the Democratic vote share between 48% and 53%. Fitzgerald and Tiffany were first elected to full congressional terms in 2020. — Stephen Joyce

IOWA: LEGISLATURE READIES VOTE ON NONPARTISAN AGENCY’S SECOND MAP
Iowa’s Republican-led legislature will vote Thursday on a second proposed set of congressional and state legislative district maps submitted by a nonpartisan state legislative agency. The lines are more favorable to Republicans than the first set of maps the state Senate rejected on a party-line vote earlier this month. — Greg Giroux

Source: Iowa Legislative Services Agency
A nonpartisan Iowa state agency released its second proposal for a new congressional map on Oct. 21.

OREGON: LOTS OF SECRETARIES OF STATE IN THIS FIGHT
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit Oregon Republicans filed challenging the state’s congressional maps. Jeanne Atkins, a Democrat who was Oregon secretary of state in 2015–17, and the committee are siding with current Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a Democrat. Republican ex-Secretary of State Beverly Clarno, who served in 2019–21, sued Fagan over the maps, which the Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave an “F” for partisan fairness. — Joyce E. Cutler

Caught Our Eye

  • Why Democratic gains in big metro areas in Texas could outweigh GOP success in south Texas. (FiveThirtyEight)
  • Those on Donald Trump’s mailing list have been asked to contribute $45 each to “solve the election fraud of 2020.” (Newsweek)

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To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Kay in Miami at jkay@bloomberglaw.com; Joyce E. Cutler in San Francisco at jcutler@bloomberglaw.com; Brian Flood in Washington at bflood@bloomberglaw.com; Tiffany Stecker in Sacramento, Calif. at tstecker@bgov.com; Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com; Stephen Joyce in Chicago at sjoyce@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com; Heather Rothman at hrothman@bgov.com

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