In a decision late Thursday, a federal court in Washington reinstated four early voting days in five counties in Florida.
The court stated that changes in early voting laws, “would make it materially more difficult for some minority voters to cast a ballot” the court blocked part of Florida’s 2011 early voting law that stripped four early voting days from 12 to 8.
The three judge panel at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the 2011 law to shorten early voting can’t take effect in five counties because the law would reduce the Black vote. According to the Miami Herald, the ruling, “raises the prospect that Florida will have two different types of early voting for this year’s crucial presidential election.”
The court’s ruling stated, “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.”
The court’s ruling affects five counties covered by the Voting Rights Act. The counties are Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe.
The Republican controlled Florida House and Senate cut back the number of early-voting days to 8 from 12 in 2011. In 2008, African Americans cast 22% percent of the total early vote, even though Blacks are just 13% of Florida’s registered voters. More Blacks voted during the early voting period than on election day or via absentee ballot combined.
During an interview with Rev. Al Sharpton on August 9th, Jim Greer, who was Chairman of the Republican Party in Florida for three years, confirmed that many suspected: That the early voting days were cut in an effort to suppress the Black and Latino vote.
The former Florida GOP Chairman told Sharpton on national TV that, “There’s no doubt that what the Republican led legislature in Florida and Governor Scott are trying to do is make sure the Republican party has an advantage in this upcoming election by reducing early voting and putting roadblocks up for potential voters, Latinos, African Americans to register and then to exercise their right to vote. There’s no doubt. I was in the room. It’s part of the strategy.”
LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Managing Editor, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus. She is heard every Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WPFW every Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Washington DC. You can e-mail her at LBurke007@gmail.com follow her on twitter at @crewof42.