A sharp contrast emerged last week between the courage of Florida’s elections supervisors and Attorney General Ashley Moody. In one corner, the people who actually run elections made another urgent appeal for public faith in the democratic process. Meanwhile, new emails showed that Moody’s own staff was mocking Texas for challenging the 2020 election only hours before our attorney general signed onto the same lawsuit. It’s another example of who’s really at fault for impugning the integrity of America’s elections. And it captures what local supervisors are up against in 2022 and beyond.
Florida’s 67 county elections supervisors released an open letter Monday, lamenting that “public trust in our elections is being systematically undermined to the detriment of all Americans.” The group underscored the safeguards that protect the integrity of Florida’s elections, and it urged voters “to get the facts from the trusted election experts” instead of falling for “disinformation and malinformation.”
What’s stunning about the letter, beyond the need to pen one at all, was that it came only five days after the supervisors made a similar appeal. In another open letter Oct. 20, the group called on “all candidates and elected officials to tone down the rhetoric,” declaring that false claims of election fraud “degrade confidence in the institution and discourage citizen participation in our democracy.” Noting that these deceptions have made some supervisors the target of physical threats, the group asked politicians that “instead of standing idly by” they “work with us to understand” the lengths supervisors go to administer fair, secure and accurate elections.
The supervisors are understandably frustrated, but their concerns are nothing new. While they are locally elected in partisan races, election supervisors of both parties have historically avoided the limelight and the tumble of partisan politics, preferring to highlight their professional credentials and the nonpartisan nature of their work. That’s why supervisors started pushing back against baseless claims of voter fraud within days of the November elections. And they have been at it for months as state and national Republican leaders continue to spin conspiracies, despite Florida having produced a near-flawless election last year amid a record turnout and a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
Moody, by contrast, has made the opposite contribution to the state of American democracy. When Texas’ attorney general announced he was suing four swing states in a last-ditch attempt to overturn the 2020 election, lawyers in Moody’s office scoffed, as the Tampa Bay Times reported last week. One lawyer called it “bats--t insane.” Another called it “weird.” Despite the criticisms, Moody came out in support of Texas’ lawsuit the next day, co-signing a brief along with 16 other Republican attorneys general urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Texas’ case.
“The integrity and resolution of the 2020 election is of paramount importance,” she tweeted at the time. Days later, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the suit, citing similar reasoning as Moody’s lawyers.
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Local supervisors are playing cleanup because the attorney general and others have chosen to promote the big lie. Donald Trump beat Joe Biden in Florida, but still, the Lake County Republican Party unanimously called for the Legislature to conduct an audit of the 2020 results. The Brevard County GOP has called for the same, even though Trump handily defeated Biden in both counties.
With the 2022 campaigns around the corner, it’s unrealistic to think that this climate will get anything but worse. Supervisors from both parties will need to continue defending democracy with both their words and actions.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more op