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DOJ says Florida targeted and restricted Black voters in 2021

by Ezekiel J. Walker
DOJ says Florida targeted and restricted Black voters in 2021
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According to justice department filings on Wednesday, Florida Republicans intentionally targeted Black voters when they enacted new voting restrictions last year.

Per The Guardian, the DoJ told a federal appellate court that a lower court had correctly evaluated claims of racial discrimination when it came to Florida’s new law.

In March, US District Judge Mark Walker blocked new restrictions on the availability of absentee ballot drop boxes, regulations for third party voter registration groups, and a ban on providing food and water to people standing in line to vote. The US court of appeals for the 11th circuit paused that ruling earlier this year while it considers an appeal from Florida officials.

Most recently, the justice department’s voting section has filed challenges to voting laws in Georgia, Texas and Arizona, in addition to filing several briefs in other voting disputes.

An argument in support of a finding of racial discrimination offers a significant legal boost to challengers of the case, though the challenge to the law faces an uphill battle at the deeply-conservative 11th circuit.

The justice department said it agreed with the court’s findings that Florida lawmakers enacted those provisions knowing they would harm Black voters after the 2020 election in which turnout surged. The Florida law, the department said, violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting practices.

“The district court’s core factual findings are that, in the face of surging turnout in the 2020 election, the Florida Legislature responded by enacting provisions that impose disparate burdens on Black voters,” DoJ lawyers wrote in their brief. “Which were chosen precisely because of those burdens to secure a partisan advantage. The court’s findings of discriminatory intent are a permissible view of the record based on the entirety of the evidence.”

Florida lawyers dispute that the law is racially discriminatory.

Democratic AG’s across the country weighed in on Florida

According to Orlando Weekly, Democratic attorneys general from 16 states and the District of Columbia urged a federal appeals court Tuesday to reject restrictions that Florida Republicans placed last year on election drop boxes.

The attorneys general filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should uphold a March ruling by Judge Walker that the restrictions are unconstitutional and should be blocked.

The brief disputed Republicans’ arguments that the restrictions on drop boxes, where people can drop off mail-in ballots, are needed to help prevent fraud.

The state of Florida continues to dispute Judge Walker and opposition

Lawyers for Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, Attorney General Ashley Moody and county elections supervisors said in a brief filed last month at the appeals court that Walker “got it wrong” and that the law is a “facially neutral and common-sense election law.”

“The record shows the Florida Legislature attempting to balance integrity with access to improve voter confidence, provide clear rules, and address issues before they affected Florida’s election,” the brief said.

But the Democratic attorneys general Tuesday pushed back against the state’s justifications for the drop-box restrictions.

“As (the brief-filing states’) experiences demonstrate, it is possible to prevent fraud and promote confidence without constricting the right to vote,” the brief said. “Moreover, there is no real problem with fraud or confidence to address. Even if there were, SB 90’s specific provisions restricting the use of drop boxes would not help. Instead, those targeted provisions were, as the district court found, aimed at disenfranchising a specific group of voters.”

Black Florida leaders strategize to combat voter suppression

Equal Ground Florida is a Black-led, nonpartisan effort to build the Black vote and Black voter power in the state, per Click Orlando. It’s a coalition of voting advocates, faith leaders and program directors for historically Black colleges and universities.

Programs such as Vote for Black Lives campaign also exist as a statewide effort aimed at getting results to register and educate more Black voters.

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