US court rules against provisions of Florida election law
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A United States District Court has ruled against most of the legal provisions created in Florida’s Elections Act of 2021.
Late last year, the US Department of Justice expressed interest in the ongoing legal battle over Senate Bill 90, signed into law on May 6, 2021. Due to the trial, which began the day where SB 90 was enacted, the effects of the legislation was delayed.
It now appears that many of the changes made by the law have been overturned by a federal court. In a nearly 300-page order on the lawsuit, the Federal Court found that the majority of the plaintiffs’ challenge to the law was justified and ordered those provisions blocked. The court’s response was detailed in its withdrawal of defendants’ arguments.
In this case, the State of Florida had argued that SB 90 “makes minor prophylactic changes to the election code.”
Instead, opponents of the law argued that SB 90 “trampled on the right to vote, unnecessarily making it more difficult for all eligible Floridians to vote, unduly burdening voters with disabilities, and intentionally targeting minority voters — all to improve prospects.” ruling party elections. according to the judge.
The court’s trial order notes that during the litigation, he heard from 42 witnesses and reviewed thousands of pages of documents and evidence, with witnesses including state senators and statisticians.
The court described its decision as “acknowledging that the franchise, and the VRA in particular, are under siege.” To this end, the court was clear in its decision.
“After considering all of the evidence, this court finds that, for the most part, the plaintiffs are correct,” Judge Mark E. Walker wrote. At stake in the decision was the effects of SB 90 on voting rights law and how it would change the vote of Florida residents. Calling the ability to vote sacred, Walker compared it to prayer.
“Federal courts would not approve a law denying Christians their sacred right to prayer,” Walker wrote, “They should not approve a law denying Floridians their sacred right to vote.”
Walker’s comment echoes a sentiment similar to recent statements by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis when discussing new curricular changes at Florida schools. While speaking in Hialeah to promote a grant for more education funding to workforce training programs, DeSantis said changes to the state’s curriculum were intended to foster the will to be American.
“Everyone who comes out of our school system in Florida is going to be called upon to exercise the duty of being an American citizen. And that means something. You have to understand what it means to be an American. You have to understand the principles founders who built this country, you need to understand our Constitution and our Bill of Rights and why the founders designed it the way they did,” DeSantis said.
Focusing first on the history of voting in Florida and what the court calls the “chaos” of the 2020 election, Walker notes that SB 90 made sweeping changes to Florida’s election code voting, ” with special emphasis on VBM”, or voting by mail. In order, the changes are compared with state officials noting the high level of security of the election itself, even with more voters using mail-in voting.
The court wrote in the order that “the exact rationale for SB 90 as a whole and its constituent parts is difficult to pin down, with sponsors and supporters offering contradictory or absurd justifications.”
According to the court, “the plaintiffs’ expert, Dr. Burch, stated that ‘in general’ the stated purpose of SB 90 was to ‘proactively instill’ . . . voter confidence by ensuring the integrity and election security.” The court said that rationale was suspect, due to “high confidence in the 2020 election among Floridians.”
He also notes that no evidence provided to the state legislature has shown that “fraud is even a marginal issue in Florida elections.” Additionally, the court wrote that “to the extent lawmakers have asserted that SB 90 prophylactically prevents fraud that has not yet occurred, Senator [Gary M.] Farmer testified that the Legislative Assembly was never presented with an example of any type of VBM fraud that SB 90 could prevent.
Communications between state lawmakers, including Florida GOP Chairman Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota, over the course of the case also led the court to conclude that “the legislature passed SB 90 in a partisan purpose”, even if it is not specifically racially discriminatory.
Assessing the provisions to be enacted by the full inclusion of SB 90 into state law, the Federal Court ordered that state officials cannot enforce the following provisions of the bill:
- Limiting the use of ballot boxes during the first hours of voting, unless they are in a supervisor’s office, and requiring the ballot boxes to be occupied at all times
- Requirements that third-party registration groups issue warnings about voter registration deadlines and application delivery
- Rules that changed non-solicit zone rules at polling places that could ‘influence’ voters
Much of the motivation for how Walker reviewed the law’s provisions centered on the state’s history of racial discrimination in voting.
“This court finds that over the past 20 years, Florida has repeatedly sought to make it more difficult for black voters to vote because of their propensity to favor Democratic candidates,” Walker wrote. He said in his court ruling that “the present-day effects of Florida’s past are also relevant in other respects. As recognized by the Supreme Court, “racial identification is strongly correlated with political affiliation.” This has long been true in Florida.
The court’s decision and order were established as a permanent injunction and ordered that neither the defendants, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Secretary of State Laurel Lee, nor any of their successors, deputies, officers, employees or agents cannot enforce the relevant blocked provisions.
Calling Florida’s history of discrimination “grotesque”, Walker also blocked state lawmakers from passing future laws regarding drop boxes, third-party voter registration or efforts to limit activities. of “line warming” at polling stations without court approval for 10 years.
“Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern,” Walker wrote in her decision. “At some point, when the Florida Legislature passes law after law imposing a disproportionate burden on black voters, this Court can no longer accept that the effect is incidental.”