Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried speaking in the Florida Cabinet room on. Sept. 1, 2021. Credit: Danielle J. Brown
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is urging federal officials to “closely monitor” the state’s election process, claiming that the DeSantis administration and the GOP-led Legislature have been implementing “deliberate attempts to circumvent or override democratic norms,” according to a Monday letter to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Fried, an attorney and an elected Cabinet official, also suggests the U.S. Department of Justice take “appropriate federal action if necessary,” though it is not clear what kind of actions that would be.
Fried’s Monday letter was sent to Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, to notify the U.S. Department of Justice of “a series of targeted actions representing a growing threat to the civil rights of Floridians and the integrity of our state’s elections.”
Fried summarizes in the letter: “Discriminatory congressional maps, new voter suppression measures, and a (FL) Secretary of State with radical far-right views is a dangerous combination for Florida voters and the integrity of our elections.”
In the past, Fried has been quick to contact federal officials over statewide policy decisions and actions. For example, during the 2022 legislative session, she urged the U.S. Department of Education to block state lawmakers from financially penalizing a handful of Florida school districts over mask policies in the 2021-22 school year.
Fried also is campaigning as a Democrat for the 2022 gubernatorial race, which includes a Democratic primary in August.
The first point of contention for Fried is a series of court rulings on new congressional maps. After a legal challenge, one of Florida’s appellate courts favored Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to abolish a black-access district in North Florida, the Phoenix previously reported.
Critics say that the new maps potentially dilute the voice of Black voters in North Florida to elect a representative of their choice.
Secondly, she harped back to the 2021 legislative session, where the GOP-led Florida legislature passed SB 90, which. enacted new restrictions on voting access for Floridians. Fried calls the new law an “egregious voter suppression bill” that makes it harder to vote by mail and access secure ballot drop boxes.
The new voting restriction law followed a nationwide conservative-led undermining of the results of the 202o presidential election, where supporters of then-President Donald Trump claimed that President Joe Biden won due to widespread election fraud, despite a lack of evidence supporting the claim.
But Fried said these issues are “most startling” in consideration of Florida’s new Secretary of State, Cord Byrd, a former state representative who DeSantis appointed to the position in May. As the state secretary, he will be overseeing state elections including the 2022 gubernatorial election.
Fried also is campaigning for the Democratic nominee in the upcoming 2022 gubernatorial election.
As recently as May 24, Byrd refused to say if Biden won the presidential election, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Instead, he says Biden “was certified as the president.”
Of Fried wrote that:
“In his new role, Secretary Byrd will oversee the state’s Division of Elections, including the newly-created election police force. A vocal proponent of S.B. 90, Byrd was also one of the earliest supporters of DeSantis’ discriminatory congressional maps. He believes in ‘nationwide irregularities’ in the 2020 presidential election and still refuses to acknowledge whether President Biden officially won.”
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