Duval County judge resigns from vote-counting board after yard sign, donations controversy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local judge who was the head of a vote-counting board in Duval County has resigned from his position on the board after it was discovered that he has signs supporting President Donald Trump in his front yard and has donated to the president’s re-election campaign in possible violation of rules that require people in his job to refrain from showing political partisanship.

Senior County Judge Brent Shore resigned from the Duval County Canvassing Board on Thursday, News4Jax confirmed.

“Judge Shore has contacted me today, while he indicated that he has always discharged his duties with impartiality and to his knowledge he has never violated any law or rule, he has tendered his resignation from the Duval county canvassing board.” Chief Judge Mark Mahon, 4th Judicial Circuit, told News4Jax.

Florida Times-Union reporter Andrew Pantazi, who broke the story Thursday morning, reported that Shore has donated $170 to the Trump campaign and given $178 in the last two years to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

News4Jax visited the Atlantic Beach home of Shore on Thursday and found multiple signs showing support for Trump and Republican U.S. Representative John Rutherford who are both up for reelection.

No one was answering the door at the home but neighbors stopped News4Jax and some like Lori Gaglione believe those signs are inappropriate for someone who is supposed to make impartial decisions about the election.

“We are all really hoping for a fair election and very concerned about a fair election and everyone following the rules and that’s improper and it’s a violation of the statute,” Gaglione said.

Judicial rules bar judges from political donations of any kind, and canvassing board rules bar members from displaying a candidate’s campaign signs.

Trump-Pence sign displayed in the window of the home of Judge Brent Shore in Atlantic Beach. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

The state Division of Elections has said while campaign donations don’t count as active participation, displaying a candidate’s campaign signs would disqualify someone from serving on a canvassing board.

City Councilman Michael Boylan is on the canvassing board and he says the rules are clear.

“For us to compromise the credibility of our work by being out there and supporting a campaign visually, orally, even financially is something that I, with an abundance of caution, avoid completely. And I would expect that from my fellow members of the canvassing board,” Boylan said.

Shore’s wife, Kathryn Shore, told the Times-Union the six signs and stickers supporting Trump’s campaign and the two signs for Rutherford belonged to her and not to her husband. In total, Judge Shore and his wife have contributed more than $800 to the Trump campaign and other Republican committees, records show.

Shore’s resignation comes after state representatives and local lawmakers called for him to step down following the report from the Times-Union.

The canvassing board has been at the center of a recent controversy that has captured statewide attention.

The board, which reviews questionable ballots, has banned cameras during its meetings and is limiting the number of spectators. Shore was outspoken about the decision this week.

Court action is still possible even though the board made the decision to livestream parts of the meeting.

News4Jax called the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission to ask if a complaint has been filed against Judge Shore. A spokesman said “the JQC is generally aware of the media reports, but can neither confirm nor deny any ongoing inquiry.”

Shore refused to comment.

In a press conference Thursday in front of the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office downtown, Democratic leaders laid out a list of demands in the wake of Shore’s resignation that included a recount of all ballots that were rejected and for Judge Shore to step down form his position as a judge.

The leaders also said the board needs to allow the media and the public to record the process, ensure clear visibility of the ballots and to position the microphones appropriately to allow the public to hear their discussions and their decisions.

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