Federal judge strikes down portions of restrictive Florida election law
© WikiMedia (Phil Roeder)
Federal judge strikes down portions of restrictive Florida election law

A federal judge Thursday struck down multiple parts of a Florida election law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis last year as unconstitutional. In his ruling, US District Judge Mark Walker said the Republican-backed bill implemented voting restrictions in an effort to suppress Black voters.

DeSantis signed Florida’s new restrictive voting bill SB 90 in May 2021. The bill contained provisions including ballot drop box limitations, limitations on interactions with voters who are waiting in line, and alterations to the mail-in ballot process. SB 90 was a part of a nationwide effort following the 2020 General Election to change state election processes and restrict voter access.

After the bill was signed, several interest groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the League of Women Voters, and Florida Rising all filed separate lawsuits in federal court. The groups argued that SB 90 made voting harder for all eligible Floridians and specifically targeted minority voter populations. Specifically, the groups challenged SB 90 on First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendment grounds in addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Voting Rights Act protections. The three lawsuits were consolidated into the one that appeared before Walker.

In light of the extensive amount of evidence and testimony presented in the case, Walker ruled that SB 90 was unconstitutional. In doing so, Walker said that the right to vote was under attack. Walker noted how the changes to Florida’s election law disproportionately impacted Black voters by making it more difficult for them to vote. Walker continually referred to the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting measures. He said that the basic spirit of the law was violated by SB 90.

As a result, Walker struck down portions of SB90 that dealt with drop box limitations and interactions with voters waiting in line. Walker also ordered that the legislature must receive court approval on any new similar voting laws for the next 10 years. He said this was because the Florida legislature has a 20-year history of attacking the voting rights of Black constituents.

Walker wrote:

Floridians have been forced to live under a law that violates their rights on multiple fronts for over a year. Without preclearance, Florida could continue to enact such laws, replacing them every legislative session if courts view them with skepticism. Such a scheme makes a mockery of the rule of law.