Citing race, a federal judge strikes down parts of a 2021 Florida election law

Election 2022 Florida CD20
A voter leaves after casting her ballot in a special election for Florida's 20th Congressional District seat, at a polling place at the Ansin Sports Complex, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Miramar, Fla. Democratic Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a health care company CEO, faces Republican Jason Mariner in the special election to fill the U.S. congressional seat left vacant after Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings died last April of pancreatic cancer. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

A federal judge struck down portions of a Florida election law passed last year, saying in a ruling Thursday that the Republican-led government was using subtle tactics to suppress Black voters.

The law tightened rules on mailed ballots, drop boxes and other popular election methods — changes that made it more difficult for Black voters who, overall, have more socioeconomic disadvantages than white voters, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in his ruling.

“For the past 20 years, the majority in the Florida Legislature has attacked the voting rights of its Black constituents,” Walker added.

Florida’s Republican-led legislature joined several others around the country in passing election reforms after Republican former President Donald Trump made unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Democrats have called such reforms a partisan attempt to keep some voters from the ballot box.

Much of the debate focused on vote-by-mail ballots and how they are collected and returned. The new law also limited when people could use a drop box to submit their ballot.

The office of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, which made the election bill a priority, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeSantis has said previously that while he expects aspects of his legislative agenda to be struck down by the federal court in Tallahassee, he is confident they will be upheld on appeal. The case would go to 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, which is seen as being very conservative.

Florida GOP lawmakers have passed additional restrictive voting measures this year, sending to DeSantis earlier this month a bill that would create a dedicated investigative unit for alleged election crimes.

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