It's been two years since we've seen them, but VoteVets, an influential liberal super PAC reliant on obscure funding sources, filed suit Monday in an effort to validate mail-in ballots received after Election Day. It's part of the Democrats’ ongoing effort to win the Florida gubernatorial and Senate victories in recounts.
VoteVets joined the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) in asking the courts to intercede on behalf of voters who mailed their ballots on time but were effectively disenfranchised when the post office failed to deliver them by the Election Day deadline.
So, now it's the post office's fault.
Florida law requires mail-in ballots to arrive at a polling place before 7 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted. Never mind Florida law. The plaintiffs in this case want the state to count all ballots postmarked prior to the deadline.
Republicans have said the suit is one prong of a broader legal strategy veteran Democratic attorney Marc Elias has set in motion to pull out victories in the state’s top two races, which Republican nominees Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis continue to lead -- even after legally mandated recounts. Elias has filed this one in conjunction with a third party on behalf of incumbent Nelson, rather than by Nelson’s campaign directly.
VoteVets is one of many super PACs on both sides of the political aisle to rely on so-called dark money by exploiting a loophole in election law. As Open Secrets explains, it technically operates as a 501-C(4) social-welfare nonprofit, which relieves it of the burden of identifying its donors, but practically engages in electioneering on a massive scale. In 2016, for example, it qualified as “the highest spending liberal nonprofit active in federal elections,” outpacing higher-profile outfits like NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Sierra Club.
Why is VoteVets so interested? The group claims a substantial number of Florida’s veterans could be disenfranchised due to forces outside their control should the court fail to intercede.
Elias, a former Clinton attorney retained by Nelson to litigate the ongoing recount, is the attorney who arrived in Florida and announced he was "here to win the election for Bill Nelson." He has also filed suit to validate mail-in ballots that were rejected because the signature on the ballot did not match the one already on record. Nelson trailed Scott by more than 50,000 votes on Election Night, but that margin has shrunk to roughly 14,000 votes as Broward and Palm Beach counties continued to report absentee mail-in ballots, triggering a recount under Florida law and a slew of suspicions Democrats have committed fraud.
Scott probably didn't catch a break: Obama appointee Judge Mark Walker will hear the case. Walker has ruled against the Scott administration on election-related issues in the past. In 2016, for instance, he ruled officials should notify voters if signatures on their mail-in ballots did not match those on their registration forms, providing an opportunity to correct the error before the ballots were rejected. And earlier this year, he ordered state officials to overhaul the system for restoring felons’ voting rights. That decision later was reversed by a federal appeals court.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith. Much of the information for this story was gleaned from National Review.