Florida’s controversial new election law discriminates against black / and other marginalized communities and will prevent them, as well as seniors, people with disabilities and low-income residents, from voting, according to a new action in court case filed in Federal Court in Tallahassee.
The lawsuit is the latest of several brought against Secretary of State Laurel Lee and as a class action lawsuit against the county’s 67 election supervisors to challenge the constitutionality of the law, which took effect immediately after Gov. Ron DeSantis was signed on May 6.
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Like the others, the lawsuit asks the court to block the implementation of the law, saying that it “creates major obstacles to postal voting, restricts access to drop boxes and criminalizes line-warming activities such as that the supply of water to voters ”.
“This is an anti-democracy bill that makes postal voting more difficult, criminalizes line-warming activities … violates the rights of free speech … denies reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities,” said Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of the National Advancement Project Office, at a Zoom press conference Tuesday.
The lawsuit ‘explicitly alleges racial discrimination’
The complaint was filed by the National Advancement Project Office, Demos and LatinoJustice PRLDEF on behalf of Florida Rising, Faith in Florida, Equal Ground Education Fund, UnidosUS, the Hispanic Federation and Poder Latinx.
Dianis said she was proud to stand with her partners “to thwart the implementation of this racist, undemocratic and unfair law. We cannot stand idly by when the state looks at Jim Crow 2.0 “.
Unlike the other lawsuits, “ours is the only one that explicitly alleges racial discrimination,” said Jorge Vasquez, director of power and democracy for the advancement project’s national office.
DeSantis and other Republican leaders have defended the law against criticism from Democrats, electoral groups and all-party electoral supervisors, in order to further protect the state’s electoral system.
“Florida has acted this legislative session to increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections,” DeSantis said upon signing the bill. “Floridians can rest assured that our state will remain a leader in ballot integrity. Elections should be free and fair, and these changes will ensure that this continues to be the case in Sun State.
Christina Pushaw, DeSantis press secretary, said the lawsuit “grossly distorts the actual legislation the governor signed to safeguard the integrity of the elections.”
The lawsuit claims the new law violates voting rights law and is part of a long history of discriminatory voting requirements in Florida stretching back 100 years. He cites 2011 bills that targeted early voting and third-party registration and a 2019 law requiring returning criminals seeking to restore their voting rights to first pay all their fines and fees.
The new law “illegally abrogates voters’ right to voter assistance at polling stations,” undermines the work of third-party voter advocacy groups and disproportionately affects black and Hispanic communities, according to the lawsuit.
Law a response to the mobilization of black and Latino voters, lawyer says
The law was passed amid unprecedented voter turnout and the use of postal ballots, despite the pandemic, and appears to specifically target mechanisms that have increased voter registration and black and Latino voter turnout. , said Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel for DEMOS. .
The law “can only be seen as a response to the mobilization of black and Latino voters,” Naifeh said, adding that the state should be forced to submit to a Justice Department review to prove that the new law will not restrict voter access.
A record 1.38 million black voters and 1.8 million Latino voters participated in the 2020 general election in Florida, according to the lawsuit.
“The various components of SB 90 are linked because they target these voting practices, including the unprecedented use of postal ballots, the unprecedented use of secure drop boxes, and significant organized efforts to support voters who encounter long lines or other obstacles to in-person voting, ”the suit claims.
In particular, they objected to requiring third-party groups to issue a warning that voter registrations might not be processed in time to be valid. The lawsuit said the requirement violates the free speech rights of these organizations.
The law is a similar but watered-down version of laws passed in other Red Battlefield states. It adds new identification requirements for obtaining mail ballots, prohibits mass mailing of ballots, prohibits “collecting ballots” or collecting large numbers of ballots on behalf of of voters, drastically reduced the opening hours of the ballot boxes and banned private subsidies. and contributions to help county election supervisors organize elections.
It does not specifically prohibit people from offering food and water to voters who line up at the polls, as other states have. However, it imposes criminal penalties and fines on anyone who “engages in any activity with the intent or effect of influencing a voter,” which effectively prohibits the distribution of food and water, according to the Government. trial.
The line warming ban disproportionately affects black and Latin American communities, said Mone Holder, senior director of advocacy and programs at Florida Rising.
Further, Naifeh said the Legislature offered no valid reason or legitimate state interest for the new requirements and restrictions. Rather, the governor and Republican lawmakers who pushed for these new restrictions praised the secretary of state and local election supervisors for a near-perfect administration of the 2020 election that had no evidence of fraud.
“We are simply asking the court to prevent the state from carrying out practices … which are totally unwarranted by any need,” Naifeh said.
Jeffrey Schweers is a Capital Office reporter for USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida. Contact Schweers at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.