April 1, 2022

On Friday, federal court Judge Mark Walker struck down several provisions of Florida’s voter suppression bill and ordered the state be put under preclearance requirements for the next 10 years.

Politico has the deets:

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, in a blistering 288-page decision, said the law placed restrictions on voters that were unconstitutional and discriminated against minority citizens. Those included limits on drop boxes used for mail-in voting, on giving items to voters waiting in line and new requirements placed on voter registration groups.

Walker, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, framed Florida’s law as another in a long line of changes that were aimed at Democrats but wound up placing an illegal burden on minorities.

“At some point, when the Florida Legislature passes law after law disproportionately burdening Black voters, this court can no longer accept that the effect is incidental,” Walker wrote. “Based on the indisputable pattern set out above, this court finds that, in the past 20 years, Florida has repeatedly sought to make voting tougher for Black voters because of their propensity to favor Democratic candidates. In summation, Florida has a horrendous history of racial discrimination in voting.”

The judge’s decision placed a permanent injunction on several parts of the new law, such as restrictions on when drop boxes could be used by local election officials. As part of the order, the judge also put in a preclearance requirement if legislators want to change laws regarding voter registration organizations, drop boxes or so called “line warming” activities with voters waiting to cast ballots at the polls.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took time out from waging war on gays, public schools and Disney to attack the ruling as – irony alert! – “performative partisanship.” And, of course, he declared war on the ruling, too, vowing to appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, where Republican-appointed judges are in the majority.

On MSNBC last night, host Joy Reid both saluted Judge Walker’s order and worried that our current Supreme Court would rule against it and use it to overturn what’s left of the Voting Rights Act.

Her guest, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) sounded pessimistic. “I would feel much more comfortable if it was in a 50/50 Senate where Senators Sinema and Manchin would both vote to reform the filibuster and then vote to put back in place the Voting Rights Act,” he said. “The dashboard is flashing all over the country with different states where you're seeing voting rights abuses. But these judges at the district court level, they can’t do much if the Supreme Court is just going to overturn it.”

But for now, it’s a victory to celebrate.

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