OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A federal judge appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama has struck down a portion of a new Florida voter integrity law claiming it is racially motivated.
In siding with the League of Women Voters, which filed suit against the Florida Secretary of State, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker of Federal District Court in Tallahassee claimed that the portion he struck down was unconstitutional while implying that the GOP-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis passed the measure out of racial animus.
In addition, he declared that for the next decade his court “retains jurisdiction” at that the state may “enact no law or regulation governing 3PVROs, drop boxes, or ‘line warming’ activities, as those terms are defined in this Order, without submitting such law or regulation for preclearance.”
Walker also claimed that those arguing that we live in a post-racial society are incorrect while adding portentously, “This case is about our sacred right to vote—won at great cost in blood and treasure.”
For the time being, the order means the state of Florida cannot enforce that portion of its new law, according to the Tampa Bay Times:
A provision that limited the use of ballot drop boxes to early voting hours, unless they’re in a supervisor’s office, and required the boxes to be manned at all times…
A requirement that third-party groups issue a warning when trying to register voters, including telling voters that their registration application might not be turned in before the voter registration deadline or within the required 14 days.
A provision that changed the rules around the “no-solicitation zone” around a polling site to prohibit “any activity with the intent to influence or effect of influencing a voter.”
In declaring that the “plaintiffs are right,” Walker went on to sum up the arguments this way:
Defendants argue that SB 90 makes minor prophylactic changes to the election code. Plaintiffs, on the other hand, allege that SB 90 runs roughshod over the right to vote, unnecessarily making voting harder for all eligible Floridians, unduly burdening disabled voters, and intentionally targeting minority voters—all to improve the electoral prospects of the party in power. This Court has received thousands of pages of evidence—plus thousands more pages of briefing—and has heard two weeks’ worth of testimony from 42 witnesses, ranging from state senators to statisticians. Having reviewed all the evidence, this Court finds that, for the most part, Plaintiffs are right.
He also editorialized from the bench, claiming that voting rights are “under siege.”
“This Court finds that the Legislature enacted some of SB 90’s provisions with the intent to discriminate against black voters,” he said, adding: “There are those who suggest that we live in a post-racial society. … But that is simply not so.”
He also wrote that “when the Florida Legislature passes law after law disproportionately burdening Black voters, this Court can no longer accept that the effect is incidental.”
“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,” he continued with his editorializing. “In summation, Florida has a horrendous history of racial discrimination in voting.”
In one astonishing passage, Walker purported to claim that Republicans are racists but simply cannot say so in public. He wrote that “in this day and age, few would be so foolish as to openly admit their racial motivations—knowing that any such statement would provide fodder for a law’s opponents. Instead, this Court must rely on circumstantial evidence. In other words, this Court must infer the Legislature’s intent from all of the circumstances surrounding SB 90’s passage.”
In lashing out against the ruling, DeSantis declared: “In front of certain district judges, we know we will lose no matter what because they are not going to follow the law. … It’s just a matter of how quickly it’s going to get reversed.”