In a 288-page document, District Court Judge Mark Walker blocked the Florida voter suppression bill and specifically called out judges and the Supreme Court for undercutting the Voting Rights Act. Mark Joseph Stern, Slate's court and law writer, cited several excerpts in the judge's decision that make the decision groundbreaking. Until the case goes to the Supreme Court, Florida's suppression laws will be stopped.
Republicans around the country have been pushing voter suppression laws after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election after a record-setting voter turnout. In Texas, for example, Republicans confessed that the law they passed putting additional barriers on vote by mail wasn't due to an outbreak of voter fraud. Instead, it was to make people feel better.
"This is a preventative measure for us," Republican state Rep. Travis Clardy said. "I think it is our job to make sure that doesn't blossom into a problem that disturbs the underlying and one of the underpinnings of our democracy, and that is confidence in our elections."
Florida SB 90 created their own restrictive legislation that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in 2021. The Florida voter suppression law makes voter registration more difficult, puts additional barriers on vote by mail and changes the rules for election observers.
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"Having reviewed all the evidence, this Court finds that, for the most part, Plaintiffs are right" wrote Judge Walker. "Thus, as explained in detail below, this Court enjoins Defendants from enforcing most of SB 90’s challenged provisions. In so ruling, this Court recognizes that the right to vote, and the VRA particularly, are under siege."
He went on to cite Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote in a letter to the New York Amsterdam News in June 1965 about the VRA that “to deny a person the right to exercise his political freedom at the polls is no less a dastardly act as to deny a Christian the right to petition God in prayer."
Then he dropped the hammer on the Florida law, explaining that Florida "has repeatedly, recently, and persistently acted to deny Black Floridians access to the franchise," meaning the right to vote. He thus placed the state back under preclearance, which mandates that any election laws in the state must be approved by the federal government.
He went on to detail an extensive "horrendous history of racial discrimination in voting," and explained that when the Florida Legislature passes so many laws that disproportionately burden Black voters, "this Court can no longer accept that the effect is incidental."
Judge Walker then attacked the Supreme Court, recalling Chief Justice John Roberts 2013 majority opinion, "Voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that. The question is whether the act's extraordinary measures, including its disparate treatment of the states, continue to satisfy constitutional requirements."
"Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically. Largely because of the Voting Rights Act, voter turnout and registration rates in covered jurisdictions now approach parity," the majority opinion continued. "Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare and minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels."
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg responded with a dissent, writing, "Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."
According to Judge Walker, "In short, without explaining itself, the Court has allowed its wholly judge-made prudential rule to trump some of our most precious constitutional rights."
He said that parts of the Florida law were inspired by racist desires to suppress Black votes. He then put the state back under the VRA's preclearance restrictions and said that the state must get federal approval before passing any new laws limiting voter registration, drop boxes, or "line warming."
So-called "line warming" is when people bring food, water, blankets, jackets, or even chairs while people spend hours standing in line to vote. Georgia passed a law this year banning any efforts to help anyone in line trying to vote. So, if someone has to use the bathroom after several hours, they have to do it on the sidewalk outside the poll place or soil themselves, otherwise, they'll lose their place in line.