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DeSantis Impeded Federal Officials’ Ability to Enforce Voting Law, Watchdog Says

The government has long sent election monitors to polling places to ensure laws like the Voting Rights Act are followed.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 19, 2022.

A government watchdog group filed a complaint against the Department of Justice (DOJ) this week in an attempt to obtain records regarding far right politicians blocking federal election monitors in certain polling places during the 2022 election.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is suing over the DOJ’s failure to turn over records of communications between federal officials and state politicians in Florida and Missouri, saying that the agency violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by neglecting to respond to CREW’s November FOIA filing in a timely manner.

The group says that the records can shine a light on the DOJ’s response to Florida and Missouri’s rejection of the federal election monitors, which the federal government has deployed for decades across the country to ensure that election laws are being followed.

Shortly before the election last year, far right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration and the Missouri attorney general each stated that they would not be allowing election monitors in polling places.

Federal election monitoring is a long-held practice meant to ensure that laws like the Voting Rights Act are being followed. Fears around far right violence at polling stations caused the DOJ to increase the number of election monitors from 44 in 2020 to 64 in the 2022 midterm elections.

The DOJ was planning to send monitors to three Florida counties that have among the highest concentrations of Democrats in the state. DeSantis officials rejected this, saying that it violated Florida law — but advocates have questioned the true motives behind this move, noting DeSantis’s efforts to arrest people for attempting to vote and his formation of a fascist election police force.

The DOJ ultimately said it would be monitoring outside of polling places in Florida, as Florida officials said they would allow.

Blocking the monitors from entering polling sites “likely impeded the DOJ Civil Rights Division’s ability to protect federal voting rights in those states,” CREW said in a post about the complaint.

“The months leading up to the 2022 midterm elections were notably marked by a series of humiliating and harmful publicity stunts by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, including public arrests for so-called election crimes and the roll out of new restrictive election laws, which disproportionately disenfranchised Black voters,” CREW continued. “The rebuke of federal election oversight came on the heels of these efforts, raising questions around whether the federal government is adequately able to protect voting rights.”

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