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Duval’s Elections Supervisor 1 of 8 Dismissed From Digital Ballot Images Lawsuit

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office exterior
Ray Hollister
Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office exterior

An appeals court Monday dismissed eight county elections supervisors from a lawsuit seeking to require preservation of digital ballot images generated in elections. 

The Florida Democratic Party, Democratic lawmakers and other plaintiffs filed the lawsuit last year in Leon County circuit court against Secretary of State Laurel Lee, state Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews and elections supervisors in Broward, Orange, Lee, Duval, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Miami-Dade counties. 

The public-records lawsuit focused on ballot images that are created when ballots are scanned. It contended that some county supervisors of elections do not preserve the images, which could be needed to verify the accuracy of vote counts. 

Then-Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson in August dismissed Matthews from the case but let it move forward against Lee and the county supervisors. 

The supervisors went to the 1st District Court of Appeal, arguing that they should have been sued in their home counties, instead of in Leon County. The appeals court agreed Monday in a six-page opinion and dismissed the supervisors from the case. 

“In this case, the appellees (the Democratic Party and other plaintiffs) have alleged that the supervisors have put their First Amendment rights at risk, but they have not explained how,” said the opinion, written by Judge Thomas Winokur and joined by Judges Stepanie Ray and Robert Long. “They also argue that equal-protection rights may be violated if digital ballot copies are destroyed because paper ballots lost before a recount would not be tallied and some voters’ voices would not be heard. But this possible danger does not show that the supervisors are invading the appellees’ constitutional rights in Leon County, and certainly does not satisfy the requirements of (a type of legal exception) allowing them to be sued in Leon County.” 

Lee, who is based in Leon County, sought dismissal in circuit court on other grounds.