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USA TODAY

JACKSONVILLE, Florida – A Florida judge has resigned from the Duvall Counting Commission after findings were revealed that he had donated repeatedly to President Trump’s re-election campaign and other Republican efforts.

Duvall County Senior Judge Brent Shore, whose home showed several signs in support of Trump, chaired the campaign board for his role as district judge.

Still, Florida court rules prohibit judges from making any political donations.

And the campaign council is making rules that prohibit members from “showing signs of the candidate’s election campaign.”

Senior District Judge Brent Shore, who refused to change the rules prohibiting the public from filming or recording videos of vote counts, first donated $ 20 in 2016 to Donald Trump’s initial campaign for president. Since then, he has donated 11 more times to Trump for a total of $ 170, and has donated $ 178 over the past two years to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Committee of Congress and the National Republican Senator Committee.

Shore did not resign as district judge, and the Duvall County Commissions Commission did not overturn its decision to ban photography and video recording of his work.

Chief Justice Mark Mahon said that although Shore resigned, “he indicated that he had always been honest and impartial”.

Shore was a deputy for District Judge Gary Flower, who is the presiding chairman of the council, but has been absent for the past week. District Judge Eleni Derke will now replace Shore as chief deputy.

The resignation comes hours after the Florida Times-Union reported to USA TODAY Network detailed donations to Shore’s campaign.

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Outside his home, there is a Trump sign in his yard and two signs for US Republican John Rutherford. A Trump-Pence banner hangs from its front window, and four stickers cover the window panels next to its front door.

“Americans for Trump’s program,” said one. “Keep the heat in Congress.”

Violation of judicial canons can land Shore, who would not answer questions about this story, in front of the Judicial Qualification Commission, where judges are prosecuted and even removed from their positions depending on the seriousness of their violations.

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Shore may also have broken the rules for board members. The agitation councils that counted the ballots in the mail before election day were councils of three people with a district commissioner, an election leader and chaired by a district judge. They are forbidden to “actively participate” in campaigns or to support candidacies.

The election department said that although campaign donations were not considered active participation, “showing signs of the candidate’s election campaign” would disqualify someone from serving on the campaign council.

Until Shore responded with requests for comment, his wife, Catherine Pettway Shore, answered the door Wednesday night at their home in Atlantic Beach and asked to know how a reporter knew her husband had given it to Trump.

She then said that the Federal Election Commission’s donor database must be wrong because her husband did not donate to Trump.

“I’m not convinced just because someone put it on my list that my husband did,” she said. The donations say they came from Brent Douglas Shore, who gave their home address and said his profession was “judge,” “judicial,” and “retired,” and listed “Florida” as his employer.

She said the six signs and stickers in support of Trump’s campaign and the two Rutherford signs belonged to her, not her husband.

“My husband would never do anything unethical or inappropriate,” she said. “I am not a judge and these signs are mine. And yes, this is my half of the front yard. “

She said the sign from the other half of the yard was hers, too. Yet a court ethical statement explicitly states that spouses cannot place political signs in the courtyard in front of the homes where judges live.

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Duvall’s board of directors includes Election Leader Mike Hogan, City Councilor Michael Boylan and County Judge Gary Flower. However, Flower has been absent since the board began adjusting ballots last week, and Shore has led the board instead.

Flower did not respond to emails or voicemail this week.

Hogan said he had no comment because he did not know about Shore’s donations or the signs in Shore’s yard.

“Lack of transparency”

Shore sometimes reacted sarcastically to the media and to lawyers from Duvall’s Democratic Party.

Shore has recently criticized his work with the board for banning the public and the media from filming or recording videos of the proceedings, despite repeated decisions by Florida courts that board meetings cannot ban inseparable photos or recordings.

Although the initial rules were introduced by Flower, Shore, who criticized the media coverage, refused to change the rules, saying that if he allowed journalists to film, he would have to “watch” them.

And when Democratic lawyers asked to see duplicate ballots that would be counted as votes, Shore said they were accusing him of lying because he read the duplicate ballots to them. The issue, he said, was confidential, although lawyers had the right to request ballots.

Before election day, the board of directors helps ensure that postal ballots are counted.

When ballot papers are rejected by a voting machine, staff sort the ballots into two piles: one with ballots that have problems with the intentions of the voters, and one with ballots that have no problems with the intentions of the voters.

The review board reviews voters’ ballots, such as those in which someone has filled multiple balloons for the same race or used a tick instead of filling a balloon, and an employee fills in a new ballot with the board’s definitions. This bulletin is then counted.

Although he and the other board members agreed to broadcast parts of the meetings live, the council has not yet shown these revised ballots.

If a court rules that the board has violated state laws on sunlight, then the court may invalidate all counts of votes made by the board so far and force it to start over.

First Amendment attorneys say Shore’s refusal to allow photography risks delaying Florida’s election results.

While most ballots that come in front of the board are fairly easy to identify, some are much more difficult.

In one case, a voter filled the balloon for Rutherford and filled the balloon for Rutherford’s opponent, Democratic candidate Donna Deegan. The voter wrote something in assembled cursive before the vote. To some of the audience, writing seemed unattainable.

The board, including Shore, who has two Rutherford signs in his yard, discussed what to do before deciding to count the vote for Rutherford instead of overdoing it.

“It’s not just the emergence of partisanship that leads to a lack of trust in the electoral system that we need to worry about,” said Dan Smith, a political scientist at the University of Florida. “In Duvall County, that’s the lack of transparency.”

Follow reporter Andrew Pantazi on Twitter: @apantazi

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