In a win for Florida Democrats, Bill Nelson, the rule of law and common sense, a federal court cited the Constitution and (yes, this is actually true) the NFL rulebook to explain why election officials in the Sunshine State can’t just arbitrarily toss the ballots of eligible voters who voted by mail.
“Consider the game of football,” read the first words of the order from U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker granting a preliminary injunction to the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida and Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate. “Football fans may quibble about the substance of the rules, but no one quibbles that rules are necessary to play the game. See generally Nat’l Football League, 2018 Official Playing Rules of the National Football League (2018).”
And no one quibbles that football referees make certain calls, under the rules, that deserve review. Indeed, not every call is going to be clear—the ultimate decision may hinge on highly subjective factors. Hence, a call will be overturned only when there is “clear and obvious visual evidence available that warrants the change.” ... Coaches may challengec alls themselves by throwing a red flag, or, in certain circumstances, the referees may initiate review on their own.
All that process. Just for a game.
In this case, the Plaintiffs have thrown a red flag.
At issue were thousands of rejected mail-in ballots cast by eligible voters in Florida’s midterm elections that were rejected by local officials because signatures didn’t match. The Democratic Party’s complaint requested injunctive relief based on the fact that “Democratic voters are more likely than Republican voters to have their vote denied due to an apparent signature mismatch.”
In the complaint, Democrats called Florida’s signature mismatch law “entirely standardless, inconsistent, and unreliable,” adding that the law placed an undue burden on first-time voters, people of color and young voters, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment.
The judge agreed, writing that 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.”
Florida’s signature-matching requirement does not have a standard, and many argue that election workers have no training in handwriting analysis, making the process random and subject to problems. Signatures on ballots are compared to state records, which include electronic signatures from DMV records where registrants often use their fingers or electronic pads to sign their names.
The Florida voting law gave citizens whose signatures were rejected, a deadline of 5 p.m the day before an election to “cure” their mismatched signatures (the chance to prove that they signed the ballots). Thursday’s ruling ordered county election officials to notify every voter whose ballot was tossed because of mismatched signature and gave those voters the opportunity to cure their ballots before 5 p.m. Saturday.
No one knows how many votes are affected by this ruling. In the hearing, Maria Matthews, director of the Florida Division of Election, testified that the state has rejected 3,688 vote-by-mail ballots and another 93 provisional ballots. But that total only includes 45 counties of Florida’s 67 counties. The remaining 22 counties include the heavily Democratic Miami-Dade County, which is also Florida’s most populous.
Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for Senate running against Democrat Bill Nelson, issued a statement saying that he will appeal the judge’s “baseless decision.”
While the order citing numerous rules from the National Football League’s official rulebook came from a federal court, it does not apply to voters in Georgia or the Falcons fans whose team blew a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl.