Florida Republicans intentionally discriminated against Black voters with new election measures and restrictions they enacted last year, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday (August 17), per The Guardian.
The DOJ's findings come after US District Judge Mark Walker blocked new voting restrictions in Florida earlier this year that decreased the availability of absentee ballot drop boxes, further regulated third-party voter restriction groups, and banned giving food and water to people standing in line to vote.
Though Florida officials have appealed Walker's ruling, the Justice Department said Wednesday that the court correctly deemed Florida's new election law as racially discriminatory and in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
According to the DOJ, Florida lawmakers intentionally enacted measures to harm Black voters following the 2020 election where turnout surged.
“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, which were chosen precisely because of those burdens to secure a partisan advantage," DOJ lawyers wrote in a brief.
However, Florida lawyers dispute that the law is racially discriminatory.
“Facially neutral laws regulating drop boxes for vote-by-mail ballots, the return of voter registration forms, and activity at or near a polling place fall squarely within the state’s power to manage “[t]he time, places and manner of holding elections”, lawyers representing the Florida secretary of state and attorney general wrote in a brief.
Despite the DOJ's finding of racial discrimination, the appeal filed by Florida lawmakers is still being considered by the U.S. court of appeals for the 11th circuit, which is deeply conservative.