Voter rights groups say they are considering filing a lawsuit challenging today’s two special legislative elections in Miami-Dade County. The groups say they want to see what, if any impact, Hurricane Irma had on the voting process.
Julie Houk, senior special counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, says the coalition of groups has received some calls about issues at the polls today. But she admits there haven’t been a lot.
“I have to say, thankfully, there haven’t been many problems that have been reported. But that accounts for people who tried to vote today,” Houk said. “‘There may be people that have had other issues that precluded them from voting. They have evacuated and haven’t come back yet, or they’ve got other issues that are attacking their ability to cast a ballot.”
The coalition of voter rights groups include Common Cause Florida, State Voices Florida, the League of Women Voters Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Engage Miami, SAVE, LatinoJustice and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Houk says the groups want to take a look at the reasons some people might not have been able to cast a ballot before deciding whether to file a lawsuit to void Tuesday’s election
The groups are particularly concerned about the effects Irma had on the mail system and mail-in ballots.
As of Monday, 30,700 mail-in ballots, or about 33 percent of the 82,000 absentee ballots mailed out had been returned to the Miami-Dade elections office.
The group had sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott and state elections officials on Sept. 20 asking to have the date of the special elections pushed back.
Scott decided to stick with the original date on the advice of Miami-Dade elections officials.
“We rely on the independent Supervisors of Elections to guide decision making on elections in their counties,” said McKinley Lewis, deputy communications director for Gov. Rick Scott. “(Miami-Dade County) Supervisor of Elections Christina White has requested to move forward with this election, and we will accept her guidance.”
The elections were held to fill two vacant seats in the Legislature–Senate District 40 and House District 116.
The Senate race featured Democrat Annette Taddeo and Republican former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.
That election was called to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami. Artiles resigned earlier this year after making racist comments to another lawmaker at a Tallahassee restaurant.
The open House seat became vacant when Diaz decided to step down to run for Artiles’ Senate seat.
The two candidates in that contest were Republican Daniel Perez and Democrat Gabriela Mayaudón.
Houk says the coalition will base its decision on whether to challenge the election based solely on whether voters in Miami-Dade were able to cast ballots in the special elections. She insists that although the decision will come after the votes have been counted, the decision will not be based on who won the elections.
“Our interest lies with voters. We help voters regardless of party affiliation,” Houk said. “What we are interested in is making sure voters who have the right to cast a ballot are able to cast a ballot in these elections.”