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Rick Scott Strikes Out Again: Federal Court Blocks Florida Attack on Early Voting

Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL). (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) has been relentless in his push to restrict the right to vote. He’s advanced an illegal voter purge that would have disproportionately impacted the minority citizens in his state. And a federal court blocked his effort to suppress voter registration last May. On Thursday, a federal court in Washington, DC concluded that another part of Scott’s anti-voting agenda cannot take effect because the state’s new restrictions on early voting negatively impact minority communities.

Last year, the Republican-controlled legislature cut Florida’s number of early voting days down from 8 to 12. However, because minority communities tend to utilize early voting days, the federal court ruled that fewer options for early voting “would make it materially more difficult for some minority voters to cast a ballot.” The court rejected the state’s early voting changes based on their discriminatory impact:

We conclude that we cannot preclear Florida’s early voting changes at this time because the State has failed to satisfy its burden of proving that those changes will not have a retrogressive effect on minority voters if the covered counties offer only the minimum number of early voting hours required under the new statute, which would constitute only half the hours required under the prior law.

The proposed cuts to early voting days came before the court under Section 5 of the national Voting Rights Act, which requires areas with a history of racial discrimination to preclear changes to their election laws by either a federal court or the Justice Department. Several of Florida’s counties are covered by Section 5, and the federal court concluded those counties must make additional early voting hours available to voters.

Other states are also in the process of making it more difficult for citizens to exercise their right to vote by restricting voting hours. After controversy over the fact that Ohio’s proposed restricted hours would only go into effect in Democratic-leaning counties, Ohio is now choosing to restrict voting hours to weekends in every single county.

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