June 22, 2021

Third federal lawsuit filed against new Florida vote-by-mail restrictions

3 min read

A third federal lawsuit has been lodged against a recently adopted Florida law that places new requirements in vote-by-mail rules that opponents claim are unconstitutional and violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

The 91-page lawsuit, announced during a Tallahassee news conference Tuesday, was filed by the Advancement Project National Office, Demos and LatinoJustice PRLDEF on behalf of Florida Rising, Faith in Florida, Equal Ground Education Fund, UnidosUS, the Hispanic Federation and Poder Latinx.

“Every voter, regardless of race, background or zip code, should be able to make themselves heard at the ballot box,” Advancement Project National Office Executive Director Judith Browne Dianis. “SB 90 aggressively and discriminately violates this principle by imposing barriers on voters of color and disproportionately locking them out of democracy.”

The lawsuit claims the alleged reforms, already signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis during a May 6 on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” disproportionately restricts voting access for Black and Latino voters and impedes the groups’ efforts to expand voter registration and participation in elections.

The challenge was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee and names Secretary of State Laurel Lee, the state’s chief elections officer, and four county supervisors of elections as defendants.

“Florida’s recent legislation attacking the voting rights of its Black and Latino residents is like a virus attacking the human heart. Without a remedy to undo the effects, our democracy will die,” the lawsuit says in its introduction.

Senate Bill 90 adds more identification requirements for requesting absentee ballots; requires voters request an absentee ballot for each election, every two years; limits who can collect and drop off ballots to prevent “ballot harvesting”; and expands the presence of partisan observers during the vote-counting process.

The bill prohibits outside groups from providing items “with the intent to influence” voters within a 150-foot radius of a polling location but, unlike Georgia’s law, allows poll workers to provide water and other assistance.

The lawsuit claims SB 90 illegally restricts access to ballot drop boxes and aid to voters in ways designed to inhibit turnout by minority voters, in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The complaint also alleges the new law violates plaintiffs’ rights to protected speech and expression by banning their efforts to engage “marginalized and excluded constituencies” in the democratic process.

“Among other successes of the 2020 election in Florida, Black and Latino voters achieved record turnout due to the massive investment of time and resources by organizations such as plaintiffs. A record 1.38 million Black voters and 1.8 million Latino voters participated in the 2020 General Election,” the filing says.

“In response to this unprecedented Black and Latino turnout, and in spite of the fact that Florida’s election was well-administered, safe and secure, the Florida legislature, with the support of Florida’s governor, began work to change Florida’s election procedures to make it harder for Black and Latino persons to vote.”

The Advancement Project National Office, Demos and LatinoJustice PRLDEF lawsuit is the third lodged against SB 90.

On the same day DeSantis signed the measure into law, the League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) filed a 69-page federal lawsuit in Tallahassee and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) filed a federal complaint in Orlando.

The NAACP LDF-led lawsuit is joined by Black Voters Matter Fund, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and several individual voters. It claims SB 90 violates the federal Voting Rights Act, the 1st and 14th amendments and is – by definition – voter suppression.

This article was originally posted on Third federal lawsuit filed against new Florida vote-by-mail restrictions

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