NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated Florida’s new Republican-backed voting restrictions, overruling a judge’s decision that several provisions such as limits on ballot drop boxes were racially discriminatory.
U.S. Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee had struck down the bulk of the law in March, finding that lawmakers had designed the legislation to be “intentionally discriminatory” against Black voters. He also ordered the state to seek court approval to make any changes to the provisions in question for the next 10 years.
But a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the state’s request to block his decision, noting that Florida’s primary election takes place in August – too soon, the judges said, to allow for changes to election rules.
Friday’s order reinstates new restrictions on the use of drop boxes and on third-party organizations’ ability to collect voter registration forms. In addition, the law includes a provision that bans groups from offering food, water and other aid to people waiting in line to vote.
Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running for re-election and is considered a top Republican contender for the 2024 presidential election, signed the bill into law last year after it passed the Republican-majority legislature.
The bill was among dozens of new voting restrictions that Republican-controlled states have approved in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent.
The panel also faulted Walker’s analysis of what he called Florida’s “grotesque history” of racial discrimination, saying he reached too far back in time to justify his rationale.
The judges on the 11th Circuit panel were all appointed by Trump, while Walker was named to the bench by Democratic former President Barack Obama.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Aurora Ellis)