Mar 31, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Florida judge rules election-law changes unconstitutional

Wilbur Harbin prepares to place his ballot in a vote by mail ballot drop box during the Congressional district 20 elections on January 11, 2022 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

A voter prepares to place his ballot in a drop box in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., during the Congressional District 20 elections on Jan. 11 . Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that parts of Florida's newly enacted Republican-driven voting law are unconstitutional and racially biased.

Why it matters: The ruling marks the first time a federal court has rejected major components of a myriad of voting laws that have been passed by conservative-leaning states since the 2020 election.

  • "Florida has a grotesque history of racial discrimination,” Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker wrote in a 288-page order.
  • The Florida judge accused state lawmakers of "[trotting] out one of the oldest racial tropes known to man in response to concerns about minority disenfranchisement."
  • “Sadly, the record before this Court suggests that, in the past 20 years, Florida’s legislators and cabinet officials have given into that temptation several times — targeting Black voters because of their affiliation with the Democratic party. It is to that history that this Court now turns."

What they're saying: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) blasted Walker's decision as "performative partisanship," the New York Times reports.

  • “If you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have the law on your side, argue the law. If you have neither, you pound the table. Well, this is the judicial equivalent of pounding the table," DeSantis said.

The other side: Civil rights and voting rights groups, meanwhile, applauded the judge's federal order, calling it a "win for Florida voters."

  • "As Judge Walker acknowledged, this is part of a larger assault on voting rights that continues across the country. ... Every voice deserves to be heard in our democracy, and state officials must ensure that by making elections fair and accessible — not by creating unnecessary obstacles to the ballot box."

What's next: Walker's ruling is expected to be appealed and likely to be reversed by the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta or the Supreme Court, the Times writes.

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