Florida law discriminates against Black voters to gain 'partisan advantage': DOJ filing

Florida law discriminates against Black voters to gain 'partisan advantage': DOJ filing
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Florida-based Never Trump conservative Rick Wilson, a former GOP strategist, has described the Sunshine State as a place where Democrats “struggle” in statewide races — a state where they campaign hard but often can’t get past the finish line. President Joe Biden lost Florida to Donald Trump in 2020 by around 3.4 percent, which wasn’t a double-digit loss but was a loss nonetheless.

For Florida Democrats, one of the challenges is turning out voters as much as possible. Voter suppression makes that more difficult, and according to a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filing on August 17, Black voters in Florida were unfairly targeted by voting restrictions — restrictions that, the DOJ said, were a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination with voting laws.

A lower court found that lawmakers in the Florida State Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, passed a voting law knowing that it would harm Black voters. And the DOJ, in its filing, agreed with that ruling.

READ MORE: How the Supreme Court is turning back the clock on election law — and advancing voter suppression

In a brief, DOJ lawyers wrote, “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.”

The law, according to critics, makes voting more difficult in a variety of ways, from limiting the number of absentee drop boxes to making it illegal to give food or water to people waiting in line to vote. Florida Republicans, however, deny that the law is a form of voter suppression or was designed to unfairly target Black voters.

The DOJ, under U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, has also challenged voting restrictions in Texas, a light red state, and two key swing states: Arizona and Georgia.

Florida will have closely watched elections in 2022, including a gubernatorial race and a U.S. Senate race. Gov. Ron DeSantis is up for reelection, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is seeking a third term.

READ MORE: Why Ron DeSantis is stumping for election deniers in key swing states: report

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