ATLANTA, GEORGIA — In a huge win for Florida election integrity on Thursday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state’s voting laws overturning a lower court finding that provisions of the law discriminated against black voters.
The lower court used “out-of-context statements by individual legislators” and “flawed statistical analyses” in deciding the law was discriminatory, Chief Judge William Pryor wrote in his opinion, reversing the ruling. There was “hardly any evidence” of intentional discrimination, Judge Pryor argued.
Florida’s election integrity legislation (SB 90), signed in 2021 by Governor Ron DeSantis strengthened voter identification, prohibited the mass mailing of ballots and banned ballot harvesting.
Civil rights groups – including the Florida State Conference of Branches and Youth Units of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Florida Rising Together – challenged the election integrity measure and won in lower court. In March 2022, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker agreed with the claim that the majority of the law was racially discriminatory.
But a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said Thursday there was not sufficient evidence to suggest that Florida lawmakers intentionally targeted black voters when restricting drop boxes, barring third parties from delivering voter registration forms, and limiting interactions with voters waiting in line.
A review of Florida’s actions “does not support a finding of discriminatory intent,” Judge Pryor wrote. Recent voting laws cited by the lower court offered “no support for its finding,” he argued.
“The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals correctly upheld Florida’s common sense election integrity legislation designed to secure and safeguard Floridians’ right to vote,” Ben Gibson, an election law attorney with Shutts & Bowen LLP tells The Florida Standard.
Gibson represented the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which intervened in the case to defend the legislation. “Thanks to Governor DeSantis and the State Legislature, Florida remains the ‘gold standard’ for election administration,” Gibson said.
The Circuit panel said the lower court’s findings that suggested the changes to the law were prompted by black voters’ increased reliance on mail-in voting are “clearly erroneous findings of fact.”