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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Federal judge accuses Detzner of trying to disenfranchise voters



In a scathing ruling calling out the office of Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner for its legal arguments, a federal judge on Saturday cancelled the oral arguments for a case on voting rights.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker declared he would use written arguments to rule on a lawsuit filed by Democrats contesting a state law that prohibits mail voters from correcting their signatures if they don't match signature on file. 

"But this isn't a game; this Court will not allow the Florida Secretary of State - a high-level officer of the State of Florida - to take a knee and deprive Florida citizens of their most precious right," Walker wrote. He canceled a Monday hearing in the case. 

Under state law, mail voters who do not sign their ballots are allowed to fix them and have their votes counted. Those whose signatures are deemed a mismatch by the county canvassing board are not allowed to. The Department responded by the court's deadline.

"Secretary Detzner is not a proper party to the lawsuit. According to Florida law, the Secretary of State does not canvass vote-by-mail ballots. That is the duty of county canvassing boards," DOS spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said in a statement. 

Walker has not ruled in the case, which is on a time crunch as the Nov. 8 election grows nearer. He did say he was not convinced by Secretary of State Ken Detzner's assertion that he should not be a defendant in the lawsuit because canvassing boards deal with mail ballots, not his office. 

He also suggested that Detzner was trying to stall and in effect disenfranchise voters.

"The mischief associated with the Florida Secretary of State's shenanigans is that, assuming he is right, it doesn't enable the proper party to be joined, thus disenfranchising thousands," he wrote.

[Last modified: Saturday, October 15, 2016 3:34pm]


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