While many Democratic Party leaders have pushed for expanded mail-in voting options as Election Day approaches amid an ongoing pandemic, President Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans argue that such a provision would pave the way for rampant voter fraud.
In the latest legal decision on the issue, Democrats suffered a setback in Florida when plaintiffs representing the party agreed to a settlement with Republicans instead of pursuing a lawsuit that demanded a host of election-related concessions, as reported by Fox News.
Background on the lawsuit
Democratic Party-aligned political action groups including Priorities USA demanded that the state cover the postage costs for all mail-in ballots, eliminate the pre-election deadline for submission of such ballots, and strike down a law prohibiting a practice known as “ballot harvesting” in which paid activists collect ballots from voters and submit them in large quantities on their behalf.
Federal District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in June against an injunction requested by the plaintiffs over the postage issue, determining at the time that such a cost did not constitute a prohibited poll tax but was more akin to paying for bus fare to vote in person at a polling location.
The judge struck down a second request for an injunction earlier this month due to the fact that the scheduled trial would be underway soon and there was no “immediate harm” in waiting for its outcome. He also found that the plaintiffs had failed to prove that ballot fraud would not be possible if their demands were approved.
Because of this week’s settlement, it appears there will be no trial, as the Tampa Bay Times reported.
In exchange for the Democratic Party’s agreement to drop the lawsuit, the state agreed to increase its efforts to “educate” and “encourage” county election supervisors and the general public about mail-in ballot procedures already in effect.
Terms of the settlement
Part of that educational strategy will include tasking election workers with counting all ballots during the early-voting period and promoting drop-off boxes for voters depositing their ballots early. The existing deadlines and law regarding ballot harvesting, however, will remain unchanged. Assuming Hinkle signs off on the settlement, it is otherwise finalized and ready to go into effect.
State Republican officials joined the lawsuit on the side of the state and in opposition to the lawsuit and claimed victory after the terms of the settlement were announced.
“Floridians choosing to vote-by-mail must have confidence that their vote will be safe and secure,” said state Sen. Joe Gruters, who serves as the chair of the Florida GOP. “We are glad that the Democrat-aligned organizations finally saw the light and dropped their lawsuit.”
The development received approval on a national scale, too, with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel calling it “a win for Florida voters and a win for national integrity.”
While the decision only impacts one state, it does appear to constitute good news for those who believe efforts to encourage mail-in voting will only make election fraud more prevalent.