Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tried his best to extend his voter suppression efforts outside Texas' borders Thursday. He failed.
Thursday afternoon, Paxton, one of the strongest advocates for restrictive voter ID laws in Texas, proudly touted his intervention, along with three fellow Republican attorneys general, in Florida's ongoing recounts following last week's midterm election. Paxton wanted to make sure that thousands of mail-in ballots in the state aren't counted, despite a district court ruling requiring that they should be.
“Using the courts to invalidate election law passed by a state legislature and to change the rules because someone is unhappy with the outcome is unfair to the candidates and voters, and it undermines the public’s confidence in the integrity of the electoral and judicial processes,” Paxton said. “The issues in this case could have been raised in legislative debate or challenged in lawsuits long before Election Day.”
The "issues" to which Paxton refers are the apparent mismatches of signatures on the uncounted mail-in ballots to the signature on file for registered voters with county boards of election throughout the state. Florida Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the state's GOP candidates for U.S. Senate and governor, respectively, are ahead and don't want the ballots counted. Their Democratic opponents, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, want voters to have a chance to resolve the problem.
Scott leads Nelson by about 15,000 votes in the Senate contest. DeSantis is up by about 33,000 votes over Gillum in the race for governor.
The court ruling this morning gives thousands of voters who were disenfranchised because of signature mismatch until Saturday to fix their ballots.— #CountEveryVote FL (@FLRecount) November 15, 2018
How easy is it to have different signatures? Here’s three signatures from Rick Scott. #CountEveryVote pic.twitter.com/Jnb7B4eqLH
Thursday morning, Judge Mark Walker of the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee issued an injunction giving voters whose ballots were rejected until Saturday to fix signature issues. Following Walker's ruling, Paxton quickly filed a brief to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the court to which Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner and the National Republican Senatorial Committee had appealed the lower court decision.
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Paxton echoed President Donald Trump's statements earlier this week that counting votes that could change the apparent outcome of an election after Election Day undermines democracy.
"The public interest is harmed by post-election challenges like those here. Challenges complaining about established election procedures only after election day — when the likely winner and loser are known — harm the public’s interest in the legitimacy of elections," Paxton wrote in the brief. "And when federal courts permit such challenges to interrupt the orderly operation of vote-counting pursuant to state law, public confidence in the integrity of the courts may also suffer."
In a 2-1 decision late Thursday afternoon, the 11th Circuit decided against Detzner and the NRSC, ruling that voters still have a day and a half to get their votes counted.