Federal Judge Allows Florida To Cut Early Voting Days

Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) plan to do away with half of Florida’s early voting days has survived the scrutiny of a federal judge. Judge Timothy Corrigan of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled Monday that there was not sufficient evidence that the reduced schedule would disenfranchise black voters, allowing the state to cut required early voting days from 14 to 8.

Corrigan, appointed by George W. Bush, said that while there were “understandable concerns about how the change in the law might impact African American voters, the court concludes that the new law will not impermissibly burden the ability of African Americans to vote.”

Separately, a panel of federal judges decided in August that five Florida counties covered under the Voting Rights Act because of their history of discrimination must continue to hold 12 days of early voting. In that case, the court found that cutting early voting would indeed have a harmful impact on minority voting rights in those counties. While Corrigan referred to this decision in the state-wide case, he reasoned that the risk has already been covered by holding longer voting hours in these 5 counties. He also stated that no counties are planning to stick to the required minimum of 8 early voting days, and about half of Florida’s counties will offer the maximum of 96 voting hours.

The upheld law also gets rid of early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, which saw heavy turnout from African Americans in 2008. 33.2 percent of Floridians who voted on that Sunday were black, while 23.6 percent were Hispanic.

Before this case, Rick Scott was not having much success pushing his voter suppression efforts through the courts. Judges have halted his attempts to curb voter registration drives and purge unconfirmed non-citizens from the voter rolls. Judge Corrigan’s decision will appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, a very conservative court with a recent history of placing ideology before the Constitution.