Statement on ruling in League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause of Florida v. Scott

On November 16, 2018, the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee issued a ruling on Plaintiffs’ motion for emergency relief in League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause of Florida v. Scott. Protect Democracy, which represents the plaintiffs in that case, issued the following statement:

“While the plaintiffs did not get the specific relief they requested, we note several important statements in the Court’s opinion about the Governor’s role in the ongoing recount:

  • ‘While campaign-trail rhetoric is increasingly bombastic, imprudent, and not necessarily rooted in objective facts, there is a critical line between campaign rhetoric and that rhetoric transforming into state action that requires judicially imposed recusal. When a public official acting in his official capacity crosses that line, he ventures into a thicket of actual or potential bias. Then, constitutional alarm bells ring.
  • ‘What Scott cannot do is undercut the count and mandatory recount of votes from his perch of public official. Grave problems arise when an individual involved in the electoral process uses his official powers to influence the outcome. Unconstitutionality can follow.’
  • ‘Scott should be on notice. Florida is entering its first-ever manual recount in which Scott is an interested party with ample power to meddle in the process. Scott’s past statements occurred primarily when he wore his candidate hat. The Due Process Clause requires Scott to remain impartial in his gubernatorial capacity.’
  • ‘The Constitution requires recusal from public officials when there is a serious, objective risk of bias. . . . The candidate’s statements offered here, though haphazard and reckless, do not rise to that level. Accordingly . . . Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction is DENIED. However, this case is not closed and future actions could demand further consideration.’

Protect Democracy also notes that, in their complaint, the plaintiffs sought to have Rick Scott recused from Florida’s Elections Canvassing Commission. Through statements to the Court by the Governor’s attorney following the filing of the suit, the Governor stated that he was recusing himself from that Commission.”

The order is available here. More information about the case is available here.

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