An elections law championed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that critics say will make it harder to vote was upheld by a federal appellate court Friday.
The law limits dropbox sites, makes it a crime to possess more than two ballots at a time, and prohibits “line warming” practices, such as offering water or chairs, for voters waiting outside polling places.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned an injunction from a lower court that stopped the law from being enforced. Judge Mark Walker’s March 31 decision took the state to task for what he called a “grotesque history of racial discrimination.” Walker, a U.S. District judge in Tallahassee, ordered Florida to bring any future changes in election laws to the federal courts before implementing them.
Walker’s 288-page ruling excoriated the state’s GOP-led legislature for perpetuating Florida’s “painful history” with Black voters.
But a three-member panel of the appellate court ruled that Walker’s decision was “flawed” and “does not seem appropriate, focused or limited.”
Challenges to the law are still being appealed.
“First, we find the district court’s historical-background analysis to be problematic. We have been clear that ‘old, outdated intentions of previous generations’ should not ‘taint [a state’s] legislative action forevermore on certain topics,’ ” the order said.
DeSantis was confident that the state would prevail in the appellate court. The three judges who wrote the decision were all appointed by President Donald Trump, and DeSantis had appointed one of them, Barbara Lagoa, to the Florida Supreme Court before Trump named her to the federal appeals court.
A statement from DeSantis’s office said that “we expect this law to stand up to any further legal scrutiny.”
“In Florida, Governor DeSantis is leading the way in making it easier to vote and harder to cheat, and election integrity protects every legal voter’s rights,” the statement said.
Several groups sued the state over the law. Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of Equal Ground, testified during the January trial. On Friday, she released a statement saying she was “deeply disturbed and disappointed” by the appeals court ruling.
“Let’s be clear, this law undoes the progress that voting rights groups have made and targets the very tools minority communities, like ours, use to increase voter turnout,” Burney-Clark said in the statement.