Florida Judge Defiantly Tosses Out GOP Florida Voter Suppression

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U.S. District Judge Mark Walker has ruled that key components of a sweeping elections law enacted last year by Republican leaders in the state of Florida are unconstitutional and ordered state authorities not to enforce the measures. The provisions against which Walker dealt this blow include sharply restrictive new rules for drop boxes for mail-in ballots — rules Republicans put in place despite the overwhelming lack of meaningful evidence of any sort of systematic integrity problem with the elections system in the United States. The new drop box rules required the receptacles to in most cases be available only during times when early, in-person voting was also open, and the measures also demanded that the boxes be supervised in-person.

Walker also ruled against new restrictions on non-governmental groups conducting voter outreach. Such groups were required under the new Florida law to warn residents that they might not turn in voter registration applications passed to them by the relevant deadlines. Groups were also required to inform prospective voters that residents could submit voter registration applications themselves — and all of these measures together threatened to bring down public trust in organizations conducting voter outreach around elections. Walker, for his part, summarized that defendants in the lawsuit over the law leading to his ruling claimed that the sweeping legislation “makes minor prophylactic changes to the election code,” while plaintiffs argued that it “runs roughshod over the right to vote, unnecessarily making voting harder for all eligible Floridians, unduly burdening disabled voters, and intentionally targeting minority voters — all to improve the electoral prospects of the party in power,” again per the judge’s summary.

“Having reviewed all the evidence, this Court finds that, for the most part, Plaintiffs are right,” the judge added — although it would seem safe to assume there’s going to be an appeal of the ruling. An original lawsuit included the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Black Voters Matters Fund, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, and individual voters from Florida as plaintiffs, and the case claimed that the bill violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, according to a summary of the arguments provided by the voting rights advocacy organization Democracy Docket. National arms of the Republican Party including the Republican National Committee (RNC) and National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) tagged onto the case, hoping to defend and ultimately shield the law. A total of four court cases against the elections law in question were consolidated ahead of a two-week trial that began at the end of January this year, with the case discussed by Democracy Docket left as the so-called parent case after consolidation.

Meanwhile, other voting rights-related court challenges are continuing around the country, including over redistricting. In Ohio, the state Supreme Court recently rejected proposals for the state’s new state legislative district lines for the third time. In a particularly glaring example of the sorts of Republican machinations leading to these stand-offs, Kansas Republican leaders recently split the state’s most racially and ethnically diverse county into more than one Congressional district for the first time in decades. Florida, it’s worth noting, is one of the last states yet to finalize their Congressional redistricting plans after Republican Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed what the GOP-controlled state legislature approved, pushing instead for a map that amounts to a significantly more GOP-favorable arrangement.