Far right Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is attempting to bar federal monitors from being able to enter polling places in Florida to ensure federal election laws are being followed in some of the state’s most Democratic-leaning counties, saying that only his administration’s supposed election monitors will be allowed in.
Due to uncertainty and fear around election safety as armed right-wing vigilantes have swarmed early polling places, the Justice Department (DOJ) announced that it would be increasing the number of polling places it will send officials to monitor from 44 in 2020 to 64 this year. The DOJ’s list of polling places includes three counties in Florida — Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach — that have among the highest concentrations of Democrats in the state.
The purpose of the DOJ officials’ presence, the agency says, is to “monito[r] elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters.” It says that the agency has monitored elections in the field in some capacity since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
But DeSantis’s administration sent an aggressively-worded letter to DOJ officials on Monday night, signed by Florida Department of State Chief Counsel Brad McVay, saying that Florida officials will not allow federal monitors to enter the polling sites, even though Florida does give other “law enforcement” officials access to polling places.
Instead, the letter said, the Florida Department of State — which is under DeSantis’s jurisdiction — would “send its own monitors to the three targeted jurisdictions” to supposedly ensure “there is no interference in the voting process.”
The DeSantis administration’s definition of “interference” with voting is likely vastly different from that of federal officials. Republicans have spent the last two years loudly spewing lies about vast amounts of election fraud across the country — despite there being zero evidence of such fraud — to justify disenfranchising voters and destabilizing elections.
Claims of so-called election interference from the right have been used as an excuse for armed vigilante groups to show up to polling places in Arizona to intimidate voters or for lawmakers to pass dozens of voter suppression bills. This is all in the service, it appears, of ensuring that Republicans never lose elections again so the U.S. can be under a fascist one-party rule.
Over the past few months, DeSantis has been at the forefront of some of the most aggressively fascist anti-voting initiatives among Republicans nationwide; earlier this year, for instance, Republicans in the Florida legislature passed a bill at DeSantis’s behest that allows him to appoint his own election police force.
Those police have been used to intimidate voters who have been convicted of felonies — even if they are still eligible to vote — as a way to scare away formerly incarcerated people from attempting to vote or register to vote.
Earlier this year, DeSantis also ousted an elected official from office for criticizing him, appointing a far right ally in his place. The decision is being challenged in court, but even if it’s overturned, the move is a show of DeSantis’s willingness to exercise his power in increasingly undemocratic ways to chill dissent in his state.