Primary case closed the day before the general election.
Leon County Judge Angela C. Dempsey on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by supporters of former Republican congressional candidate Laura Loomer that alleged election fraud by the Florida Election Canvassing Commission and the elections supervisors of Orange, Lake, Sumter and Polk counties. She handed down her decision during a 28-minute Zoom hearing in Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit Court.
The lawsuit sought a do-over of the Aug. 23 Republican primary for Florida’s 11th Congressional District. Incumbent Congressman Daniel Webster and Gavriel Soriano, the third candidate in the primary, were also named in the lawsuit. But plaintiffs’ attorney John Pierce of John Pierce Law, told VoxPopuli last week in an email that the suit didn't allege wrongdoing by either candidate.
Originally filed Sept. 8, the lawsuit has been amended, dismissed, and was amended again on Oct. 24. Loomer joined the lawsuit Friday to “protect her interests” according to the Nov. 4 Motion to Intervene. Monday’s hearing was held to consider Webster’s renewed motion to dismiss, filed Oct. 31, along with two additional motions to dismiss, filed by the elections supervisors of Sumter and Polk counties.
Representing Webster, attorney Christopher Lunny, of Radey Law in Tallahassee, told the judge that Florida elections are presumed to be correct and that there is no “common law right to challenge an election.” He then rebutted the plaintiffs’ main points:
Elections supervisors did not maintain accurate voting rolls
Mail ballots were delivered to incorrect or undeliverable addresses
None of the signature on mail ballots are valid and therefore all mail ballots should be discarded
Lunny pointed to one paragraph in the complaint, which claimed that thousands of voters with questionable residency status cast illegal ballots. “We just don't have the names of these voters. We don't have a closer estimate than thousands. We don't know whether they voted in this specific race. We don't know whether they voted for Congressman Webster, in which case it wouldn't matter.”
On mail-in ballots, Lunny told the court, there was no “statutory basis” for disqualifying ballots from incorrect or undeliverable addresses. He said ballots returned from undeliverable addresses could not have been used to vote. Lastly, Lunny said that whether the signature verification process currently used to validate ballots could be improved was a legislative matter not a matter for the courts to decide. And, since the plaintiffs did not flag any issues with signatures with election officials at the time of the primary, nor raise it in their initial complaint, they couldn’t raise it at this stage.
“The plaintiffs have had three bites at this apple,” he said. “There really isn't a statutory basis to maintain this further.”
Pierce, the plaintiffs’ attorney, argued that the case merited discovery to establish what he called a “fatally flawed” election.
“What we are alleging here, Your Honor, fundamentally, is a widespread fraudulent scheme in which the true voter did not cast thousands and thousands of votes because of address flipping,” Pierce said. “We think the factual findings should be fleshed out in a hearing on the merits, not a motion to dismiss.”
Once arguments were finished, Judge Dempsey quickly said that she would dismiss the lawsuit in its entirety. She cited plaintiffs’ failure to address signature verification issues with county election officials before pursuing them in court as well as “other insufficiencies in substance,” which she did not not elaborate on, as key to her decision.