Two GOP-governed states are suggesting that federal election monitors are not welcome to observe their polling places on Tuesday.
The statements out of Florida and Missouri make up for what they lack in legal grounding and specifics with punch and verve, creating the impression that the states will thwart the federal voting rights monitors that have for decades ensured states provide access to the polls.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Department of State issued a letter to the DOJ on Monday saying that “Department of Justice monitors are not permitted inside a polling place under Florida law.”
Overweeningly terse, an attorney for the Florida Department of State added that the state had not received “evidence concerning the need for federal intrusion.”
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) on Monday posted an email from the DOJ on Twitter, writing that he told the agency that monitors were “NOT authorized to be on site” during the election.
A DOJ spokesperson declined to comment on the statements.
Officials from both states stopped short of explicitly asserting that state laws superseded federal laws and allowed them to block DOJ officials. Rather, they both angrily noted that federal monitors were not welcome, and suggested that their presence would intimidate voters or discredit the results somehow.
“The presence of federal law enforcement inside polling places would be counterproductive and could potentially undermine confidence in the election,” wrote Brad McVay, general counsel for Florida’s Department of State.
It’s a ridiculous assertion on its face: the observers are there to monitor compliance with the various federal laws that protect voting rights and voters’ access to the polls.
The DOJ released its list of target locations for observation on Monday, an action it undertakes every election cycle.
The declarations by Florida and Missouri does set up what Sarah Brannon, managing attorney of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, described to TPM as an “unprecedented” situation.
“This is a circumstance where DeSantis sent that letter, but are the poll workers who showed up at 6 a.m. going tell the DOJ lawyer in a suit, being very polite, that he or she has to leave?” she wondered.
It appears unlikely that DeSantis or Ashcroft will truly breach election procedures and order state officials to ban federal monitors from approaching poll sites.
“It has the potential to become a big concern if the state government tries to stop the federal government from doing its statutorily mandated job,” Brannon said.