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Florida: Protections Against Intimidation of Voters and Election Workers

This resource details state laws and policies protecting against the intimidation of voters and election workers and the disruption of the voting process.

Published: October 28, 2022
View the entire Laws Protecting Voters and Election Workers from Intimidation series

Voters in Florida have the right to vote free from intimidation under federal and state law. footnote1_dnc5ni7 1 18 U.S.C. §§ 594, 241; 52 U.S.C. § 10101(b); Fla. Stat. § 104.0615. The federal protections that apply to all states are explained here. The laws and policies below serve as guardrails against specific threats of intimidation.

Intimidation by Poll Watchers

Florida law outlines who may serve as poll watchers and what they may and may not do:

  • Each watcher must be a registered elector in the county in which they serve, and only one watcher per party and per candidate is permitted in each polling room. footnote2_gpk76ee 2 Fla. Stat. §101.131(1).
  • Law enforcement and those who are candidates on the ballot may not serve as poll watchers. footnote3_q8djq3h 3 Fla. Stat. §101.131(3).
  • All watchers must wear an identifying badge issued by the supervisor of elections. footnote4_3wlx0ds 4 Fla. Stat. §101.131(5).
  • Watchers may not take photographs or recordings of any kind or interact directly with any voters. footnote5_ot4pxc7 5 Fla. Admin. Code R. 1S-2.034 (Apr. 2020); Fla. Stat. §101.131(1).
  • Watchers are prohibited from engaging in any form of electioneering, including wearing any materials that may influence an election. footnote6_dsu4ung 6 Fla. Admin. Code R. 1S-2.034 (Apr. 2020).

Poll workers may remove from a polling place any poll watcher who abuses their role. footnote7_4dafygf 7 Fla. Stat. § 102.031(4)(c).

Challenges to Voter Eligibility at the Polls

Florida law provides a number of rules and limits on voter challenges:

  • Challenges must be made in writing and under oath to the clerk or inspector. footnote8_86b2kuu 8 Fla. Stat. § 101.111(1)(a).
  • A copy of the oath is delivered immediately to the challenged voter by the clerk or inspector, and the voter is entitled to cast a provisional ballot. footnote9_0uz0zxq 9 Fla. Stat. §101.111(b)(1).
  • If the challenge is based on the voter’s residence, the challenged voter is given an opportunity to execute a change of legal residence form to vote a regular ballot. footnote10_r48i6os 10 Fla. Stat. §101.111(2).
  • Voters may provide further evidence of their eligibility to the supervisor of elections until 5 p.m. on the second day after Election Day.
  • Submitting frivolous challenges is a misdemeanor offense in Florida. Each instance of a frivolous challenge constitutes a separate offense. footnote11_mnbgm2j 11 Fla. Stat. § 101.111(2).
  • Knowingly using false information to challenge a voter is a felony. footnote12_t45pcfb 12 Fla. Stat. § 104.0615(3).

Coordinated Canvassing of Voters

While Florida law does not explicitly prohibit canvassing, both state and federal law prohibit canvassing efforts that are used to intimidate voters. Any voter who receives a visit from a privately organized canvassing group does not have to answer any questions and should report any incidents of intimidation to their local officials. Additionally, it is a felony in Florida to impersonate or deliberately act as a public officer. footnote13_opa2wjy 13 Fla. Stat. § 843.0855(2).

Intimidation of Poll Workers and Election Officials 

In addition to federal protections for election workers, Florida law prohibits anyone from using or threatening to use force, violence, intimidation, or coercion to induce an individual to refrain from acting as an elected official. footnote14_pmad4dr 14 Fla. Stat. § 104.0615(2)(d).  It is also illegal to knowingly use false information to induce an individual to refrain from acting as an election official. footnote15_cb38onp 15 Fla. Stat. § 104.0615(3).

State and Local Law Enforcement

In Florida, the sheriff is required to deputize a deputy sheriff at each polling location. footnote16_tdsbq4d 16 Fla. Stat. § 102.031(2).  Deputies may be in plain clothes and are not armed. In practice, they may be recruited by the election official in the jurisdiction and are often former poll workers. Except to cast a ballot, law enforcement officers are not permitted in a polling place without permission from the election clerk or the majority of the election inspectors. footnote17_y9ph534 17 Fla. Stat. § 102.101.  The deputies are subject to all lawful commands of the clerk or inspectors at each polling place and each early voting site. footnote18_7ctinxc 18 Fla. Stat. § 102.031(2).  If any officer refuses to comply, the election officials may make an affidavit against the relevant officer for their arrest. footnote19_fx2inet 19 Fla. Stat. § 102.101.

Voter Intimidation by Poll Workers

The Brennan Center and All Voting is Local published a detailed resource on the rules and constraints for Florida poll workers here.

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