Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Judge strikes down parts of Florida election law that he says suppress black voters

Tallahassee, Fla. ( Associated Press) — A federal judge dismissed parts of Florida election law passed last year, saying the Republican-led government was using subtle tactics to suppress black voters.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in his ruling that the law has tightened rules on mailed ballots, drop boxes and other popular election methods — changes that have made it more difficult for black voters to total Overall, there are greater socioeconomic disadvantages than white voters.

“For the past 20 years, the majority in the Florida Legislature has attacked the voting rights of its black constituents,” Walker wrote. Given that history, he said, some future election law changes should be subject to court approval.

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Florida’s Republican-led legislature joined several others across the country in passing election reforms after former Republican President Donald Trump made baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Democrats have called such reforms a partisan attempt to keep some voters away from the ballot box.

“It was only designed to fuel the narrative around the big lie and that the election was stolen from Trump,” Democratic State Rep. Fentice Driskell, who is Black, said in a phone interview after the ruling was issued. “What we absolutely cannot have is a system that, I almost think, is separate and unequal. Making it difficult for black people to vote is unconstitutional.”

Democratic State Rep. Ramon Alexander said he and others argued before the bill was passed that it would disproportionately affect voters of color, and he was glad Walker agreed.

“Florida has a long history of discrimination at the ballot box, and (the bill) was just one more obstacle facing black people trying to cast a legal vote,” said Alexander, who is Black.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who preferred the election bill, said the state would appeal Walker’s decision and win.

“In front of some district judges, we know we will lose, no matter what, because they’re not going to follow the law,” DeSantis told a news conference in West Palm Beach. He did not specify specifically why he believed the ruling to be incorrect.

Upon appeal, the case will go to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, which is considered more conservative.

Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley, who sponsored the bill, did not immediately return a voicemail message seeking comment.

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Much of the debate focused on vote-by-mail ballots and how they are collected and returned. Walker reversed a provision of the law when people could use drop boxes to submit their ballots, as well as prohibiting anyone from engaging with people waiting to vote. Walker said the latter provision “discourages groups that offer food, water and other forms of incentives to voters waiting in long lines.”

“One way, then, to measure whether this provision will have a disproportionate impact on black or Latino voters is to determine whether black and Latino voters are more likely to wait in line to vote,” Walker said. Referring to the testimony said that in fact be the case.

Walker, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, also overturned a provision in the law that places new restrictions on groups registering voters, including those working to register voters. People submit their name and permanent address to the state.

Walker ordered that for the next 10 years, any attempt by the legislature to write new laws on those issues would require court approval.

“Floridians have been forced to live under a law that violates their rights on multiple fronts for more than a year,” he wrote. “Without pre-clearance, Florida can continue to enforce such laws, changing them every legislative session if courts view them with suspicion. Such a plan makes a mockery of the rule of law. “

Nation World News Desk
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