Rep. Davis, Florida Advocates Plead For Duval Elections Chief to Prioritize Voter Accessibility and Health

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Representative Tracie Davis (District 13) and voting rights advocates from All Voting is Local, New Florida Majority, ACLU of Florida, and League of Women Voters Jacksonville First Coast in a telephone press briefing urged Duval Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan to make voting safer and more accessible ahead of the November 3 general election.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage Florida and voters are trying to decide how they can safely participate in the upcoming election, it’s imperative that Supervisor Hogan fulfill his obligation to inform and empower voters about the different ways they can safely cast their ballot. 

“I’m here today with the stakeholders on this call to ensure that Duval County is doing what we need to do and taking the measures they need to take to ensure that we are conducting safe, secure, and accessible elections for our voters,” said Rep. Tracie Davis, District 13, Florida House of Representatives. “ We’re going to ask the necessary questions until we cannot ask those questions anymore – because our Duval County voters deserve answers, they deserve notifications, and they deserve safe, secure, and accessible elections – especially on November 3.”

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic and it’s almost certain we’ll be in one on Election Day, and that’s why it’s so critical that Supervisor Hogan and every other election officials in the state do everything within their power to ensure voters can vote safely,” said Brad Ashwell, Florida state director, All Voting is Local.  “Voters shouldn’t have to choose between their health and the right to vote. Supervisor of Elections Hogan has an obligation, both professionally and morally, to ensure our elections are safe, secure, and accessible to all registered voters.”  

“Unfortunately, our appeal to [Supervisor Hogan] was ignored, and when that appeal went unheeded, it means we’re forced to pursue other actions which would not be necessary if we could just sit down at the table with him and get him to do those things that we’re asking him to do,” said Pastor Reginald Gundy,  Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. “We have reached out to him over, and over, and over again, and he has refused. His actions do not show that he’s really concerned about people getting to the polls.”

In 2018, Duval County had the lowest participation rate of vote by mail of any large or even medium to rural county in the state of Florida,”said Sam Coodley, statewide voting rights organizer, ACLU of Florida. Meanwhile, the supervisors of elections in counties with the highest participation rates and lowest vote-by-mail rejection rates identify voter education as the most critical step to increase participation and reduce vote-by-mail rejection rates,” Mike Hogan and the Duval Supervisor of Elections office owe it to their constituents to do the exact same thing as counties across the state and offer tools such as the mailing of vote-by-mail applications and the inclusion of clearly marked ballot drop off boxes so that no one in Duval County has to choose between protecting their health and casting their vote.” 

“As a result of COVID-19polling locations have shifted and voters are concerned about wait times and what protective measures are being taken to keep them safe at polling locations – they do not want to choose between their health and wanting to participate in democracy,” said Moné Holder, senior program director of policy, advocacy and research, New Florida Majority. “Expanding access to the ballot comes in different forms, and we must continuously meet voters where they are. This stands true for voters who cast ballots traditionally on election day, and especially for those who opt to vote by mail.” 

“The League requests Mr. Hogan to increase voter education regarding vote-by-mail, especially as it relates to updating signatures, signature matching, ballot marking, and return deadline for ballots,” said Lanelle Phillmon, president, League of Women Voters Jacksonville First Coast. “ The League trusts that Mr. Hogan takes the safety of our voters and elections serious and knows that he and his staff are up to this momentous challenge. In the days following our election, none of us want to be in a place of “‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’”. We ask our Supervisor of Elections to go beyond what he can do and instead do all that can be done.”

Audio recording of today’s press briefing can be found here.

Background: 

All Voting is Local previously sent a letter to Supervisor Hogan, urging him to send vote by mail applications to registered voters for the primary election. Unlike similarly sized counties such as Broward, Hillsborough, and Pinellas, Duval did not send vote by mail applications, despite having similar COVID cases per 100,000 residents