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Editorial: Florida's new elections chief won't bury the 'big lie'

Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, South Florida Sun Sentinel on

Published in Political News

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new chief elections official, Cord Byrd, could have saved himself a whole lot of justifiable criticism Tuesday if he had simply acknowledged what most Americans know is true — that Joe Biden won the presidency fair and square in 2020.

But he wouldn’t do it. At his very first news conference as Florida’s new secretary of state, Byrd double-talked his way around a question that persists because our democracy is under siege: Did Joe Biden win the election and the presidency in 2020 fair and square, or not?

A yes or no question deserves a yes or no answer, but Byrd wouldn’t give one, even though his job is to instill public confidence in the reliability of election results.

“Joe Biden was certified by the Congress after counting the electors, and he is the president of the United States,” Byrd said.

It’s a fundamental question, and an easy one after Donald Trump’s baseless claims of fraud were tossed out in more than 60 courts, up to and including the Supreme Court.

To not declare Biden the legitimate leader of America undermines democracy and perpetuates the "big lie" — period. For the chief elections official of the nation’s third-largest state to avoid the question is much worse.

 

It is especially important that Byrd, of all people, get this right, because he enters this job weighed down by excessive partisan baggage over his own record, including support for voting restrictions and a racially gerrymandered map of congressional districts.

Then there’s his wife's extreme rhetoric in support of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the Proud Boys, the QAnon conspiracy cult, a reference to future “civil wars” and other fringe claims. Esther Byrd is accountable to the people of Florida too, as a DeSantis appointee to the powerful and prestigious state Board of Education.

Byrd, 51, is a lawyer, staunch defender of gun owners’ rights and former Republican House member from the Jacksonville area.

He was DeSantis’ hand-picked choice to replace Laurel Lee as director of the state’s election apparatus at a critical juncture, with his boss running for reelection to the position he hopes will be a launching pad to the presidency in 2024. The latest overhaul of Florida election laws, championed by DeSantis himself and under challenge in court, includes the creation of a 15-member squad of investigators to hunt for election irregularities.

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