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Murphy, Díaz-Balart Lead Bipartisan Letter Urging DeSantis to Accept and Use $20.2 Million in Federal Funds to Make Elections Safer During COVID-19 Crisis

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Washington, May 8, 2020 | comments

WASHINGTON – As Florida approaches its August primary elections, U.S. Representatives Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Mario Díaz-Balart, R-Fla., led a bipartisan letter urging Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to formally request available federal funds from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to make Florida elections safer during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to Murphy and Díaz-Balart, the letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee L. Hastings, Al Lawson, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Donna E. Shalala, Darren Soto, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, all of Florida.

As part of the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136), signed into law on March 27, 2020, Congress appropriated $400 million to the EAC to distribute to U.S. states and territories in order to protect the 2020 federal election cycle from the effects of COVID-19. The EAC will distribute $20.2 million to the State of Florida, contingent on the state providing a 25 percent match of $4.0 million, for a total of $24.2 million. However, Florida must first request the federal assistance, which it has yet to do.

“As of this writing, Florida has not submitted a letter to the EAC formally requesting these federal funds and outlining the ways in which it intends to use them to ensure a safe, secure, and successful election. We urge you to formally request the funds as soon as possible, so funding can be used to prepare for the state’s August 18, 2020 primary election—which is only about 100 days away—and the November 3, 2020 general election,” the Members wrote in their letter.

The letter also highlighted concerns expressed by the bipartisan Florida Supervisors of Elections, who cited “significant challenges” in the March presidential preference primary due to COVID-19 and said they will face increased administrative costs this election season to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers.

In addition, the Members of Congress asked Governor DeSantis to inform them when the state will request the money, how the state will meet its required match, and how the state will spend the money once it is received.

“Thank you for your attention to this important matter and we look forward to your written responses to our questions and to working with you to meet our shared goal of free, fair, and safe elections in Florida,” the Members said in the letter.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

May 8, 2020

The Honorable Ron DeSantis
Governor of Florida
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Dear Governor DeSantis:

As part of the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136), signed into law on March 27, 2020, Congress appropriated $400 million to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to distribute to U.S. states and territories in order to protect the 2020 federal election cycle from the effects of COVID-19.  The EAC will distribute $20.2 million to the State of Florida, contingent on the state providing a 25 percent match of $4.0 million, for a total of $24.2 million.[1]

As of this writing, Florida has not submitted a letter to the EAC formally requesting these federal funds and outlining the ways in which it intends to use them to ensure a safe, secure, and successful election.  We urge you to formally request the funds as soon as possible, so funding can be used to prepare for the state’s August 18, 2020 primary election—which is only about 100 days away—and the November 3, 2020 general election.

On April 7, 2020, the Florida Supervisors of Elections—composed of the senior election officials in the state’s 67 counties—sent you a letter.  The letter observes that, during the March 17, 2020 presidential preference primary in Florida, county election officials “encountered significant challenges with polling places becoming unavailable, difficulty in acquiring hand sanitizer and other supplies, and substantial numbers of poll workers deciding not to work, many at the last minute.”  It is clear from the letter that Supervisors of Elections throughout Florida will face increased administrative costs in order to prepare for and execute a free and fair election process.  The funds from the CARES Act will help offset these costs and prepare election departments for what is expected to be a challenging elections cycle.

In light of the foregoing, we respectfully ask you or your designee to provide written responses to the following three questions:

  1. When will the State formally request the $20.2 million in federal funding from EAC?
  2. How does the State intend to meet its $4 million state match? 
  3. How, precisely, do you intend to use this $24.2 million in federal and state funding?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter and we look forward to your written responses to our questions and to working with you to meet our shared goal of free, fair, and safe elections in Florida.

Sincerely,

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