Today, Priorities USA announced a settlement agreement with Florida officials on a lawsuit that challenged multiple provisions of the state’s restrictive vote by mail laws. The suit was filed with the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, Alianza for Progress, Inc., and several individual voters.
The measures outlined in today’s settlement will ensure that Florida makes notable investments in election administration that helps local citizens overcome the unnecessary barriers to vote by mail amid the current global health crisis. The settlement will also ensure that existing laws will not further disenfranchise marginalized communities who are most impacted by the coronavirus. This includes exploring the use of federal coronavirus relief to provide prepaid postage for mail ballots and encouraging an increase in the number of early voting sites across the state.
Through the settlement, state officials have also agreed to:
Conduct workshops with elections officials on the implementation of mail barcode and intelligent ballot tracking by November so that voters can know when their ballot has been delivered to polling places.
Conduct a campaign to educate voters about best practices for voting by mail, including steps for voters to follow to ensure mail ballots are timely received by election officials.
Develop a document for elections officials to inform voters who cannot afford return postage that drop boxes are available or they may mail the ballot without postage or drop the ballot off at the Elections Office.
Install ballot drop boxes at polling stations during early voting and Election Day with a permanent box at the Elections office. If a polling place does not have a drop box, adequate signage to one will be provided.
Expand voter outreach and registration in Spanish and English to specifically target eligible unregistered voters, senior citizens, college students, and communities of color through discussions and community engagement.
Encourage expansion of the number of early voting sites to allow for social distancing and encourage an increase of the number of early voting days to the maximum allowed by law.
Contact Florida citizens throughout the state who are eligible to vote but have not registered to invite them to register and to inform them of the different methods of voting available to them.
“The provisions outlined in this settlement are just some of the investments needed to ensure that Floridians are not forced to choose between risking their lives and casting a ballot,” said Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA. “The settlement establishes a set of commitments by Florida election officials to expand voting rights and opportunities across the state. But there is more work to do and we will continue to challenge the state of Florida and to fight the anti-voting rights Republican National Committee to make sure everyone can vote in November.”
“The settlement moves the needle forward for communities most affected by COVID19 by requiring the state to work harder to make sure vote by mail is handled efficiently and that people of color and the elderly are not disenfranchised when voting by mail,” said Marcos Vilar, Executive Director of Alianza for Progress. “We did not get all that we asked for, but we’ve moved the ball forward. We’ll continue to work on making sure every vote counts and removing barriers this administration has sought to limit our right to vote, especially during a pandemic.”
“This agreement is a victory for all eligible older voters in Florida,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “As a direct result of this suit, every Florida voter who needs to can cast a vote by mail and know that it will be counted. Florida’s COVID-19 cases continue to surge. It is essential that seniors avoid standing in long lines and avoid unnecessary risk while they exercise their right vote.”