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The Justice Department said Tuesday that it had received the DeSantis administration’s letter and still has election monitors stationed outside polling locations in Florida.

The Justice Department said Tuesday that it had received the DeSantis administration’s letter and still has election monitors stationed outside polling locations in Florida. (FBI/Facebook)

The DeSantis administration is attempting to block Department of Justice election monitors from gaining access to polling places in South Florida, saying in a letter that the federal government’s involvement would be “counterproductive” and in violation of state law.

On Monday, the Justice Department announced that it would send federal monitors to 64 jurisdictions nationwide to monitor how elections are being conducted. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties were all slated to receive federal monitors from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

But Brad McVay, the chief counsel for the Florida Department of State, said in a letter issued late Monday that those monitors would not be allowed inside polling places under Florida law.

McVay said the Florida secretary of state’s office - which Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis oversees - would instead send its own monitors to those three counties, which are among the most Democratic-leaning counties in Florida.

“Florida statutes list the people who ‘may enter any polling room or polling place,’” McVay wrote. “Department of Justice personnel are not included on the list.”

The Justice Department said Tuesday that it had received the DeSantis administration’s letter and still has election monitors stationed outside polling locations in Florida.

Although Florida law has an exception allowing law enforcement to enter polling sites, McVay said Justice Department monitors do not qualify.

“Absent some evidence concerning the need for federal intrusion, or some federal statute that preempts Florida law, the presence of federal law enforcement inside polling places would be counterproductive and could potentially undermine confidence in the election,” McVay wrote.

“None of the counties are currently subject to any election-related federal consent decrees,” McVay added. “None of the counties have been accused of violating the rights of language or racial minorities or of the elderly or disabled.”

The Justice Department said in a news release announcing the monitoring locations that it has observed local election procedures nationwide since 1965.

Republicans have waged a sustained campaign against alleged voter fraud over the past two years, despite scant evidence of fraud in the 2020 election, and as threats against politicians, their families and election workers have spiked around the country.

Election officials in battleground states are anticipating delayed results and protracted fights once the polls close Tuesday night.

Separately, Missouri officials on Friday denied the Justice Department’s request to conduct routine inspections under the Americans With Disabilities Act and Voting Rights Act at polling places on Election Day. Secretary of State John Ashcroft (R) reiterated that stance in a meeting Monday.

He told The Washington Post that the Justice Department’s presence amounted to a bid to “bully a local election authority” and could “intimidate and suppress the vote.”

Ashcroft and Cole County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer (R) told federal officials that they would not be permitted to observe polling places Tuesday. On Tuesday, Justice Department observers were stationed outside polling places in Cole County, home to the state capital, Jefferson City.

“This is not the Voting Rights Act. This is the Americans With Disabilities Act. What’s next? They’re going to want to be at elections because they want to check that insulation in the building was purchased from China in the 1970s? Give me a break,” Ashcroft said in a phone interview.

He compared Justice Department officials from the U.S. attorney’s office of the Western District of Missouri to “jackbooted thugs” and to armed individuals in Arizona who have been seen patrolling ballot drop boxes.

“I think we’ve already had lawsuits around the country about individuals around polling places,” Ashcroft said. “And they were told that they had to stay away from them because they could intimidate voters.” Justice Department officials last observed Missouri elections in 2016 at polling places in St. Louis.

FBI special agents serving as election crime coordinators will also be on duty in the bureau’s 56 field offices to receive voting-related complaints from the public, according to the Justice Department. Employees in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will also operate a hotline all day on Election Day, answering calls from people who spot possible violations of federal voting rights laws.

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