Hmmm: Florida Dems plotted use of altered forms statewide; Update: Judge calls Florida "laughingstock of the world"

Lesson from the Naples Daily News: When Florida Democrats plot to fudge election law, they go big or go home. The plan to use altered official forms to flood counties with improper “cure affidavits” went up higher and farther than first reported by Politico yesterday. Florida Democratic Party deputy field director Jennifer Kim sent the e-mails statewide, and it’s now unclear how many more altered forms might be outstanding. The e-mails went out the day after the election — two days after the actual deadline for “cure affidavits”:

The altered forms surfaced in Broward, Santa Rosa, Citrus and Okaloosa counties and were reported to federal prosecutors to review for possible election fraud as Florida counties complete a required recount in three top races.

But an email obtained by the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida shows that Florida Democrats were organizing a broader statewide effort beyond those counties to give voters the altered forms to fix improper absentee ballots after the Nov. 5 deadline. Democratic party leaders provided staffers with copies of a form, known as a “cure affidavit,” that had been modified to include an inaccurate Nov. 8 deadline. …

It is not clear how many altered forms were sent across the state, but Kim’s email outlined a step-by-step process for volunteers and staffers to follow in order to get as many voters as possible to submit the altered form three days after the deadline.

“The voters MUST print out the form and sign it by hand,” Kim wrote in the email that attached copies of the altered forms in both English and Spanish. The email also included a sheet with the contact information of all election supervisors in the state.

In one sense, this has been mooted anyway. A federal judge extended the actual deadline this morning for “cure affidavits” until Saturday, November 10th at 5 pm ET. It might well be that Kim and the FDP figured they could win in court on this point, and with the gaps so tight on Election Night, it would have made sense to get their voters to keep sending in the affidavits.

The biggest problem in this for the FDP is the altered forms. They could have just sent a cover letter instructing voters to ignore the deadline on the proper form, arguing that they would fight in court to get it extended. Instead, they altered an official election form on their own, and apparently did so in an organized manner. That’s going to attract some legal attention that Kim and the FDP would probably prefer to avoid as their legal wrangling over the vote continues. It might raise questions as to what other FDP activities crossed legal lines too, as federal prosecutors take a look at this issue.

Still, the bottom line hasn’t changed much from yesterday even if its scope has. The impact of this falsified deadline would have been to disadvantage Democratic voters into believing they could still “cure” defective mail-in and provisional ballots, not create new ballots or illegal votes. There are still far too few rejected ballots to impact either the governor or Senate race even with the new deadline that moots the altered form’s impact. It’s certainly a window into how elections get contested in Florida, but otherwise won’t move the needle — except on the FDP’s legal fund.

Update: Fact check — let’s face it, absolutely true:

A federal judge blasted Florida legislators and election officials during a Thursday hearing to extend the recount deadline in Palm Beach County, saying the state is “the laughingstock of the world election after election and we chose not to fix this.”

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker pointed to the state’s history of tight votes — something that has come under the microscope in the years following the 2000 recount in the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore — and noted that Palm Beach County wasn’t proactive in preparing for another such recount.

Walker made the comments during a separate hearing on recount deadlines. Previously, Walker didn’t seem to be interested in extending those after hearing that counties can submit results as late as Sunday. That might change today, so we’ll keep an eye on that.

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