Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Sues State of Florida to Remove Barriers to Absentee Voting in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Today, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and four of its members filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida to protect the rights of older Florida voters during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit alleges that Governor Ron DeSantis, Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, Florida Elections commissioner Ashley Moody, the Florida Elections and Canvassing Commissions and Florida’s 67 county Supervisors of Elections have failed to adequately prepare for elections that will be held during a serious public health crisis, forcing older voters to choose between their health or casting a ballot they know will be counted.

The Florida Alliance noted that absentee voting in the 2020 Florida primary elections surged, and county Supervisors of Elections are bracing for a record number of voters to request absentee ballots to avoid lines at polling places where coronavirus may be spread. The dramatic increase has significantly increased the workloads of county election board staff members. In addition, the U.S. Postal Service, which will be relied on to deliver millions of ballots, is under severe financial and operational pressure, and may be unable to deliver all voters’ ballots in a timely manner.

The plaintiffs are asking the District Court to mandate that Florida:

  • Ensure that ballots postmarked by Election Day, but not yet received by a Supervisor of Elections due to mail delivery delays or disruptions, are counted;
  • Permit any third party the voter chooses to submit their sealed ballots in person; and
  • Provide pre-paid postage for all mail ballots.

“There are more than 2.8 million seniors registered to vote in Florida, and the state is asking them to take unnecessary risks with their health,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the national Alliance for Retired Americans. “The Alliance for Retired Americans is committed to ensuring that all older Americans nationwide can cast a ballot that will be counted, especially at this unprecedented time.”

“The right to vote is sacred. Older Floridians take this civic responsibility very seriously,” said Bill Sauers, President of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and a registered voter who lives in Wellington. “During this pandemic, the state of Florida needs to take additional steps to ensure that older Floridians can vote safely.”

“The court must act now to protect the right of older people to vote. We should not have to put our health in danger and stand in long lines on Election Day at polling sites to make sure our votes are counted,” Mr. Sauers continued. “Right now we have no way to control whether our ballots will arrive at our homes or be returned to the County Supervisor of Elections on time.”

“It is important to have the option of an absentee ballot in a situation like this, given the uncertainty,” said Ray Davis, a Florida Alliance member and one of the plaintiffs. “I am 76, and people my age should not have to put our lives on the line to exercise our right to vote. Voting by mail is critical, especially for anyone with a physical disability.”

The lawsuit court filing can be found here .

The Florida Alliance is joined in this suit by Priorities USA, Alianza for Progress, Inc, and Florida Alliance members Felicia Bruce of Fort Pierce, Ray Davis of Largo, Barbara DeVane, Tallahassee, Donesa Jackson, Oviedo, and two other Florida residents.

This year the Alliance for Retired Americans, working with its state chapters, has filed lawsuits to protect vote by mail and absentee voters in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, in addition to Florida.

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The Florida Alliance for Retired Americans is a state affiliate of the national Alliance for Retired Americans and has 197,069 members statewide.

Contact: Lisa Cutler, lcutler@retiredamericans.org

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