A three-judge federal panel has blocked Florida's early voting rules in five critical counties, saying the rules would discriminate against minority voters.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the state's limits on early voting rules clearly impacts African-American voters, using past data showing such voters use early voting far more than Caucasian voters.
Minorities "will be disproportionately affected by the changes in early voting procedures because they disproportionately use early in-person voting," the judges said.
"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 than under the benchmark law," the court ruled.
The Republican-controlled state legislature last year cut the number of early-voting days from 12 to 8, but five counties — Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe — are covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That means that any voting changes in those counties must be cleared with the Justice Department or a federal court.
Those counties have a history of racial discrimination, which is why they were singled out in the 1965 law.
by RTT Staff Writer
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