The weather outside was sunny and in the 70s, but over 400 conservative Floridians active at the grassroots level saw none of it this past weekend. They were held up in an Orlando hotel for two days learning about election integrity—from A to Z. AMAC Action was a proud sponsor of the event.
The Election Integrity Network is a project of the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI). CPI is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization located in the nation’s capital and founded by former U.S. Senator and current Chairman Jim DeMint. DeMint was the keynote speaker during the second day’s luncheon, entertaining the crowd on what it was like to go to Washington as a true outsider. He joked about his first race for the U.S. House, “I never would have run if I thought I would actually win.”
Cleta Mitchell, Senior Legal Fellow of the CPI, ran an incredibly tight ship at this event, keeping to a jammed-packed itinerary that ran from 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM on day two. Attendees got quite the crash course education on topics ranging from ballot harvesting, ballot curing, and “Zucker bucks” to how to become a poll worker or poll watcher. The agenda included nearly two dozen prominent speakers on election integrity, but it was the appearance by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that electrified the crowd.
GOP State Representative Cord Byrd introduced the Governor, who was quick with a little history lesson on how Florida went from the laughing stock of “hanging chads” in 2000 to set the gold standard of elections in 2020, with 99% of the vote reported in all races by midnight on election night. DeSantis noted that Florida continues to lead the way and praised the legislature for passing his recommendations in Senate Bill 524 this year and Senate Bill 90 last year, both of which were endorsed by AMAC. Among the provisions in both include a new Office of Election Crimes and Security, enforcing voter ID, preventing ballot harvesting, securing drop boxes, cleaning voter rolls, and moving toward ID requirements for absentee vote-by-mail ballots. Nick Primrose, the Governor’s appointee as Chair of the Florida Election Commission, was a featured speaker as well.
The takeaways were many, but one theme emerged and was repeated throughout the summit—get to know your elected officials at the local level. In Florida, the key individuals are the Supervisors of Elections in each of the state’s 67 counties. Other phrases that came up repeatedly were, “You need eyes on the process” and “We need to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
The state of Virginia featured prominently at the summit. Speakers noted that the election of 2020 provided a wake-up call to conservatives to get involved, and 2021 showed grassroots activists doing just that in Virginia’s high-profile Governor’s race. Josh Findlay of the Republican National Committee shared a line he overheard from a Washington Post reporter assigned to write a story on that 2021 election, “We have to do everything right this time because people are watching.” Lynn Taylor of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, on that same panel, gave a shout-out to AMAC Action for activating the membership in a call-to-action to become poll watchers. Nearly 800 AMAC members visited a website for information on how to work the polls in Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election. Taylor praised the many groups who worked in the state and who came together to work collaboratively on election integrity. “These organizations dropped their egos and logos at the door,” she said.
AMAC Action continues its work on election integrity. Why? Because our members said so. It ranked in the top three important issues where our members said they wanted advocacy and action. Election laws, rules, and regulations are made at the state level, and so this is where AMAC Action has been for over a year in addition to our regular advocacy at the federal level. The Election Integrity Summit in Florida was just one in a series of events across the country that AMAC has sponsored. Other events took place earlier in Georgia and Arizona, with forthcoming summits scheduled for Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Jeff Szymanski works in political communications at AMAC, a senior benefits organization with nearly 2.4 million members. He previously taught high school social studies for 15 years.
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