Florida’s election laws do not discriminate against black voters, a federal appeals court found in a Thursday decision that reversed a lower court ruling.
A handful of civil rights groups, including the NAACP and League of Women Voters of Florida, sued the state in 2021 after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed new election laws, which restricted the use of ballot drop boxes, stopped the solicitation of voters in line at the polls and limited third-party organizations from delivering voter registration forms. The 11th Circuit’s 2-1 Thursday decision eviscerated the lower court’s logic, saying it relied on “fatally flawed statistical analysis” and “flimsy evidence.”
“The district court relied on fatally flawed statistical analyses, out-of-context statements by individual legislators, and legal premises that do not follow our precedents,” Chief Judge William Pryor wrote in the court’s opinion. The lower court relied on evidence of historical discrimination in Florida, but Pryor notes that “more recent history does not support a finding of discriminatory intent.”
Pryor’s opinion also rebukes the lower court for citing the statistic that Democrats relied more heavily on vote by mail than Republicans when the data shows that black voters used it less than white voters. “Once again, partisan discrimination must not be conflated with racial discrimination,” he wrote.
The Legal Defense Fund responded to the ruling in a statement, saying it “fails to protect Floridians from these calculated and discriminatory attempts to suppress people’s voting power.”
“The voters in this state have had to navigate years of changing rules and confusing regulations because of the state legislature’s deliberate and discriminatory attempts to silence the voices of those who envision a more inclusive future for this state,” the statement says. “Rather than focusing on growing voter engagement and turnout or championing access to the ballot box, Florida’s lawmakers are doing everything they can to stop eligible voters from casting their votes.”
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Jill Proyer said the district court’s order was “thorough and well-reasoned” and “committed no reversible error when it concluded that these provisions violated the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.”
The Legal Defense Fund, League of Women Voters of Florida, American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations filed a new lawsuit on Wednesday challenging Florida’s voter registration form because it fails to inform those with past felony convictions about voter eligibility requirements.
DeSantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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