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Federal court: Florida early voting changes could shrink number of black votes

by Dara Kam | August 17th, 2012

The Associated Press reports that a federal court says a Florida law that restricts the number of early-voting days could result in a dramatic reduction in voting by blacks.

But the three-judge panel in Washington also upheld other portions of the law, including a requirement forcing voters to use a provisional ballot if they change their address from one county to another on Election Day.

The Republican-controlled Florida legislature last year cut the number of early-voting days to eight from 12 and banned early voting on the Sunday before the election, a day known as “Souls to the Polls” in many black communities where voters cast their ballots after attending church.

The early voting changes are part of another complaint filed by state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. An administrative law judge is expected to rule on that later this month.

Read the AP story after the jump.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled late Thursday that because of the law’s potential impact on minority voters, it would not allow Florida to put the changes in place in five Florida counties covered by federal voting laws. The counties — Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe — are covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The court said that evidence presented in the case clearly showed that black voters utilized early voting much more than white voters do, especially in the 2008 election, when President Barack Obama won Florida.

“In sum, Florida is left with nothing to rebut either the testimony of the defendants’ witnesses or the common-sense judgment that a dramatic reduction in the form of voting that is disproportionately used by African-Americans would make it materially more difficult for some minority voters to cast a ballot,” states the ruling issued by a three-judge panel.

The 119-page ruling did say there were ways that the state could ultimately come up with a plan to change early voting that would not adversely impact minority voting rights.

The ruling raises the prospect that Florida will have two different types of early voting for this year’s crucial presidential election.

The changes to early voting were included in a sweeping election law that also shortened the time for voter registration groups to turn in forms and forced voters to use a provisional ballot if they change their address from one county to another on Election Day.

The law went before a federal court because five Florida counties are covered by federal voting laws due to a past history of discrimination and must have any changes pre-cleared by the Department of Justice or a federal court. Traditionally Florida has postponed election-law changes for the entire state until the changes have been cleared for those counties. But the state last year directed the state’s other counties — including ones in South Florida — to start following the new law.

The court did not address the voter registration restrictions because a separate federal court recently blocked them. But the court did uphold the address-change provision that some critics saw as a way to blunt voting by college students.

A spokesman for Republican Gov. Rick Scott , who signed the measures into law last year, emphasized that the court did suggest there was still a way for Florida to make the early voting changes.

“Although the governor hasn’t had a chance to review the ruling, it’s encouraging that the court upheld part of the law and outlined a path for Florida to get pre-clearance for the voting hours provision as well,” said Brian Burgess.

Section 5 requires all or parts of 16 states to be precleared by the Justice Department’s civil rights division or a federal court before carrying out changes in elections. The states are mostly in the South and all have a past history of discrimination.

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11 Responses to “Federal court: Florida early voting changes could shrink number of black votes”

  1. Diane Says:

    Good for these 5 counties but there must be some legal angle that negates the implication that if decreasing early voting harms blacks in these 5 communities, it would work the same across the state. Black churches in my county practice Souls to Polls because going to church on Sunday is about the only time many can get a ride.

  2. Steve Keller Says:

    It is telling that having been told that the effect of the law is discrimitory, Governor Scott is still trying to find a way around the court’s order.

  3. ElectionSmith Says:

    More on DC court’s decision to strike down shortened early voting days in 5 Section 5 counties, and what it means for the rest of the state, here:

  4. Roy E. Wuthier Says:

    The reason those who want to give extra time for early voting is so that they can vote twice – voting early and then again on voting day. Taking away that privilege will make it more difficult for them to do this. In this way, shortening the early voting time will indeed reduce the number of black votes — but not the legitimate votes.

  5. Democrats are ridiculous Says:

    Wait a minute! the rest of the population is able to vote within the early voting days and times, but minorities are unable to do so!!

    What the hell? They can vote, just like the rest of the population does during the designated time. No group deserves special privleges.

    We all work, we all are busy and we all make the time to vote. Stop with the nanny state mentality.

    Get your butts to the polls and vote, no special extended voting for special groups!

    Kick democrats out of office in 2012. It’s absolutely ridiculous that everybody can’t get to the polls during a 7 day period!

    Just disgusted with democrats! Vote them all out when you vote.

  6. RealConservative Says:

    Did Anybody had Any Doubt The Republicans’ Aim Was To SUPRESSED Voting? WAKE UP FLORIDA!

  7. Dee Says:

    Roy E. Wuthier you are a stupid fascist and racist just like the rest of the Republican party and the bags of tea.

    Obama 2012
    Hillary 2016

  8. BS Says:

    With absentee balloting AND early voting there is NO legitimate reason that anyone who is entitled to vote and actually desires to vote can’t do so. The court is full of it and so are the people trying paint Republicans as racists trying to suppress the “black vote”.

    Here in Palm Beach County we have a Suppressor of Elections by the name of Susan Bucher (a leftist Democrat) who actually uses her office to suppress GOP votes. Where are the courts to deal with her?

  9. rosco p coldtrain Says:

    They can just let Jeb Boosh, Tom Feeney and his band of mobsters fix the computers. It’s a lot easier!

  10. rosco p coldtrain Says:

    Everybody in Florida and the United States should watch this and educate themselves on how Jeb Bush and his mobsters rig the local elections.

  11. SCOTT & GOP ARE EVIL Says:

    This is just another mean & evil legal way of gaining an advantage by cutting down the minority voting pportunities. Scott can say everyone has the right to vote so as long as the controlled outcome is in GOP’s favor.

    Watch out for the photo ID requirement. Sounds reasonable right? Note; many minorities don’t drive and therefore don’t have a photo ID.

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