Election Law

Citing Purcell principle, 11th Circuit reinstates voting restrictions in Florida

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A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated provisions in Florida’s restrictive election law, saying a lower court judge had blocked the restrictions too close to the August primary.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Atlanta stayed a ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker of the Northern District of Florida in which he found that the election law “runs roughshod over the right to vote.”

The 11th Circuit order cited the Purcell principle, which says federal courts generally should not change state election rules shortly before an election.

Reuters, the New York Times and the Tallahassee Democrat are among the publications with coverage.

The 11th Circuit reinstated election law provisions that limit hours and locations of ballot drop boxes, that require third-party voter registration groups to warn new registrants that their applications could be turned in too late to vote, and that ban activity with intent to influence a voter within 150 feet of a polling place or drop box. The activity ban was thought to prohibit giving food and water to people waiting in line to vote.

The court also stayed Walker’s decision to subject Florida to “preclearance” court approval of changes to certain election laws.

The appeals court said a stay is also justified by the district judge’s determination that the laws were enacted as a result of intentional discrimination by the legislature.

Walker’s review of discriminatory history in Florida beginning after the Civil War was not appropriately focused, and he failed to account for the presumption of legislative good faith, the appeals court said.

The case is League of Women Voters of Florida v. Florida Secretary of State.

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