Civil rights groups wait for response from Attorney General Ashley Moody on voter intimidation issues

Voting booths are set up on the campus of University of South Florida as workers prepare to open the doors to early voters on October 22, 2018, in Tampa. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Following a barrage of complaints from Florida voters about intimidation and threatening emails, civil rights groups are urging Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to issue a public statement warning perpetrators that intimidating voters is a serious crime under state and federal law.

“Issuance of a public statement about voter intimidation by your office is critically important this year in light of widespread media reports indicating organized efforts to intimidate and harass voters at the polls this fall,” the Oct. 22 letter says.

The groups signing the letter are Common Cause Florida, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.; Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and League of Women Voters of Florida.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. Credit: Official photo, office of Attorney General

Common Cause Florida state chair Liza McClenaghan said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday that Moody hadn’t responded to the letter but “we’ve been working with the supervisor of elections officials” to address voter intimidation concerns.

“We await her response,” McClenaghan said.

The press secretary for Moody provided this statement:

“The Attorney General condemns hate, and any and all acts of voter intimidation. Violence and threats cannot be tolerated in our elections process. Voters must be allowed to exercise their right to vote without fear or intimidation and law enforcement must stand ready to assist if these acts occur.”

Voter intimidation is defined in the letter as “whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote.”

The letter also cited a report involving a law enforcement officer in Miami who was seen wearing a pro-Trump face mask at an early voting site, which could constitute voter intimidation.

According to a Miami Herald report, “Officer Daniel Ubeda sparked outrage by wearing the mask while he waited in line to early vote at Miami-Dade’s Government Center.”

The letter written by the civil rights groups described the situation in this way: “On October 20, 2020, a Miami police officer in full uniform, including a badge and gun, entered an early voting site while wearing a mask containing the logo for a political candidate along with profanity. This type of conduct is precisely the sort of voter intimidation that our laws are intended to prevent.”

In the letter to Moody, the organization also pointed to “a significant number of concerning reports of hostile and confrontational demonstrations occurring outside polling places across Florida during the first several days of early voting.”

“Although demonstrations outside polling places often appear to be routine political activity, they may constitute unlawful voter intimidation, even if they occur outside of the 150-foot no solicitation zone under Florida law,” the letter says.

The story includes updated material from Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office.