Finally, someone is stepping up to fight the nonsense happening in Florida. In this latest instance, it’s the battle against disenfranchising voters of color. 

The Daily Beast reports that U.S. District Judge Mark Walker stopped Florida in its tracks as Republican legislators attempted to suppress minority voters from casting ballots in the state via a bill that many voting rights activists say is unjust. 

“Having reviewed all the evidence, this Court finds that, for the most part, Plaintiffs are right,” Walker wrote.

RELATED STORY: White House report cites changes to keep Native American voters from being disenfranchised

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“Florida has a horrendous history of racial discrimination in voting. As a result, Florida has long had a government that is not responsive to the needs of racial minorities,Walker wrote in his 288-page ruling.

The provisions in Senate Bill 90 that Walker has primarily ruled against, as outlined by the Miami Herald, include limitations on drop boxes, third-party registration, and “efforts to limit ‘line warming.’”  

“Line warming” is when voters waiting in lines are handed items such as water or food. In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger defined line warming as ”warming up the people in line to your position as you give them free pizza,” per 11-Alive in Atlanta.  

“Defendants argue that SB 90 makes minor prophylactic changes to the election code. Plaintiffs 2, 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—to improve the electoral prospects of the party in power,” the ruling reads.

Walker also placed Florida under a “preclearance” action, calling the state’s voting record “unconstitutional.” Preclearance means that any changes by local or state authorities to voting laws require federal pre-approval, according to Ballotpedia. 

“Without preclearance, Florida can pass unconstitutional restrictions like the registration disclaimer with impunity,” Walker wrote. “Without preclearance, Florida could continue to enact such laws, replacing them every legislative session if courts view them with skepticism. Such a scheme makes a mockery of the rule of law. Under any metric, preclearance is needed.”

The lawsuit was filed by the League of Women Voters of Florida and the NAACP, The Daily Beast reports. Representatives for the organizations said that the “case is about our sacred right to vote—won at great cost in blood and treasure.” 

Several voting rights organizations filed suit to block SB 90 in May 2021 after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law

“Every voter, regardless of race, background, or zip code, should be able to make themselves heard at the ballot box,” Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project National Office, told Tampa Bay’s WTSP Channel 10 at the time. “SB 90 aggressively and discriminately violates this principle by imposing barriers on voters of color and disproportionately locking them out of democracy.”

One of the most powerful passages in Walker’s ruling is a reference to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

“In June 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter to the New York Amsterdam News urging Congress to pass the [Voting Rights Act] VRA. In it, he wrote 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.’”

“Federal courts would not countenance a law denying Christians their sacred right to prayer, and they should not countenance a law denying Floridians their sacred right to vote,” Walker adds. 

Today’s win is one for the battle, but doesn’t end the war. The Daily Beast reports that while Walker’s ruling is permanent, it could very well be appealed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

According to the Associated Press, at a Thursday news conference in West Palm Beach, DeSantis said: “In front of certain district judges, we know we will lose no matter what because they are not going to follow the law.”  

And this is why it’s so vital that Congress pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act—STAT.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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