[Yesterday], the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an alarming report on the future of our planet. It states that humanity’s large-scale release of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere has caused long-term damage to the stability of the world’s climate and we must act swiftly and decisively to avoid even more dire consequences. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres characterized the report as “a code red for humanity.”
In response to this document, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz issued the following statement:
“Today’s report from the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a clarion call for concerted action across the globe. Although it is a stark warning that must be heeded by all nations, the United States, one of the world’s greatest emitters of greenhouse gases, must take even more careful note of its findings.
“As a Floridian, I have read this report with particular alarm. There is no doubt that our state is ground zero when it comes to climate change. Our extensive and highly populated coastline is vulnerable to more intense hurricanes. Many of our communities are suffering through flooding during sunny days and rising sea levels are starting to intrude into the aquifers that give us drinking water. We simply cannot wait any longer to see decisive measures on this issue.
“Every one of us, regardless of party or ideology, must add our voices to the growing chorus of people across the nation and the world who demand immediate action on climate change. I call on Governor Ron DeSantis, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Rick Scott and all Florida Republicans to see the urgency of the situation and help enact a comprehensive agenda at both the state and federal levels that will limit the impact of climate change to save our state, our nation and our planet. The effects are here and they’re not going away. The time to act is now.
“We owe this much to our children and grandchildren. We should heed the timeless words of Native American Chief Seattle who years ago told us ‘We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors—we borrow it from our children.’”
Florida Democratic Party Postpones Leadership Blue Weekend Due to DeSantis-Enabled COVID-19 Spike in the State
FLORIDA — [Yesterday], the Florida Democratic Party announced it is postponing its Leadership Blue event in Orlando due to surging COVID-19 new-case and hospitalization rates across the state.
The event was originally scheduled to take place on August 27 through August 29, 2021. Leadership Blue, which is celebrated annually, features training sessions for grassroots activists, strategy meetings with caucuses and clubs as well as a gala event.
Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Marcus Dixon explained the thought process behind the postponement.
“Over the last few weeks we closely monitored the relevant metrics and consulted with renowned epidemiological experts from Florida and beyond,” said Dixon. “We planned to have robust health and safety protocols in place, but eventually came to the conclusion that, given the trajectory of new infections and hospitalizations across the state and school openings in the weeks leading up to the event, it would have been imprudent to carry out this event as scheduled.”
“Governor DeSantis’s failure to lead on this issue, his reluctance to follow the science and protect our residents has led to many events being cancelled or postponed across the state. Florida’s current metrics, including the high number of new cases, the mediocre vaccination rate and the crushing burden now being placed on our health care system can only be described as severe.”
“We urge the Governor to let local governments lead and to listen to the experts so Florida can begin to recover from the COVID surge he himself has enabled and can begin to work our way back towards a greater sense of safety for our kids and our families.”
Florida Election Officials Face Possible Federal Penalties For Destroying Ballot Images Under Justice Department Rules
The United States Department of Justice warned last week that election officials could face federal penalties for destroying the digital ballot images automatically created by voting machines used throughout Florida and elsewhere in the country. The admonition, prompted by so-called “audits” in states like Arizona, came in the form of a pair of new DOJ guidance documents to remind states of their responsibilities under federal law with respect to preserving election records and protecting voting rights.
The first document makes clear that states are required to preserve all election materials, including electronic and digital records such as ballot images, for 22 months following a federal election. The Department of Justice documents published on July 28, 2021, make clear that election materials covered under federal law include electronic and digital records. Specifically, the DOJ document states:
- The Civil Rights Act of 1960, now codified at 52 U.S.C . § § 20701-20706, governs certain “(f)ederal election records.” Section 301 of the Act requires state and local election officials to “retain and preserve” all records relating to any “act requisite to voting” for twenty-two months after the conduct of “any general, special, or primary election” at which citizens voter for “President, Vice President, president elector, Member of the Senate, (or) Members of the House of Representatives,” 52 U.S.C. . § 20701. The materials covered by Section 301 extend beyond “papers” to include other “records.” Jurisdictions must therefore also retain and preserve records created in digital or electronic form. Federal Law Constraints on Post-Election “Audits”: Constraints Imposed by the Civil Rights Act of 1960, page 2. (emphasis added).
Further, the DOJ document notes that the federal law carries penalties, including criminal penalties, for election officials who willfully fail to comply:
- There are federal criminal penalties attached to willful failures to comply with the retention and preservation requirements of the Civil Rights Act. First, Section 301 itself makes it a federal crime for “(a)ny officer of election” or “custodian of election records to willfully fail to comply with the retention and preservation requirements.” 52 USC . § 20701. Secondly, Section 301 provides that any “person, whether or not an officer of election or custodian, who willfully steals, destroys, conceals, mutilates, or alters any record or paper” covered by Section 301’s retention and preservation requirement is subject to federal criminal penalties.” Id. 20702. “Violators of either section can face fines of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to one year for each violation.” Constraints Imposed by the Civil Rights Act of 1960, Id. Page 3.
The July 28, 2021, Justice Department document warning election officials against destroying records is timely as Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee (SOS) and the Supervisors of Elections (SOEs) in eight counties have been fighting efforts to stop the preservation of digital ballot images. Although more than half of Florida SOEs are preserving ballot images, the SOS and 8 SOEs have erroneously claimed that federal and state laws do not require them to be preserved. A lawsuit was brought last year by three Florida state legislators, eleven state voters and the Florida Democratic Party to compel the SOS and the SOEs of the eight largest counties to comply with federal and state law and preserve all ballot images for 22 months following a federal election.
Florida State Representative Joseph Geller sent a letter dated to Pamela S. Karlan, Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department, dated May 25, 2021, asking that the DOJ investigate the practice of these 8 Florida SOEs of deleting digital ballot images in violation of federal law.
“We hope that the Department of Justice will take a serious look at this issue,” said State Representative Joseph Geller who is both a plaintiff and counsel in the case. Geller introduced a bill this year that would have amended the recount statute that allows ballot images to be used in recounts to specifically require that they also be preserved for 22 months. “The federal law clearly requires that these images be saved as a part of the election record. My bill would have brought the state recount law into compliance with the federal civil rights law and state public records laws.”
“Digital ballot images should be treated no differently than paper ballots, spoiled ballots, vote-by-mail envelopes, or any other election material that must be saved for at least 22 months following an election,” said Benjamin Tyler, general counsel for the Florida Democratic Party.
Marc Burton, a Voter Protection election law specialist, stressed that this matter must be resolved well before the 2022-midterm elections. “Preserving ballot images in all future Florida elections will increase accountability and transparency,” Burton said. “Saving these images will go a long way towards improving public confidence in election results—as opposed to the decrease in public confidence and participation that will result from voter suppression laws supported by legislators who also oppose full transparency in our elections.”
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