Breaking News [UPDATED]: 3-Judge Court in DC Blocks Florida Elimination of Early Voting Days in 5 Counties Covered by Voting Rights Act

[UPDATED POST] AP reports a 119 page decision, (and 38 pages of factual findings) issued by a three-judge court. The court gave this summary of its holding:

Upon consideration of the entire record, our conclusions may be summarized as follows. First, we conclude that we cannot, at this time, preclear Florida’s early voting changes because the State has failed to satisfy its burden of proving that those changes will not have a retrogressive effect on minority voters. Specifically, the State has not proven that the changes will be nonretrogressive if the covered counties offer only the minimum number of early voting hours that they are required to offer under the new statute, which would constitute only half the hours required under the prior law.
Following an approach approved by the Supreme Court, however, we also conclude that if Florida and the covered counties were to submit a preclearance plan that offered early voting for the maximum number of hours authorized by the new statute, which would be exactly the same number as under the prior law, and did so on a standard 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. schedule, it is likely that Florida would be able to satisfy its burden of proving that the overall effect of its early voting changes would be nonretrogressive. Second, we conclude that Florida has satisfied its burden of proving that the changes to the procedures for inter-county movers neither were enacted with a discriminatory purpose nor will have a retrogressive effect on minority voters, and that those changes are therefore entitled to preclearance.
The opinion that follows summarizes our findings of fact and sets forth our conclusions of law on the question of statutory preclearance.2 The appendix to this opinion separately sets forth our findings of fact. See FED. R. CIV. P. 52.

Footnote 2 reads: Florida’s complaint also seeks alternative relief in the form of a declaratory judgment that section 5 and section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act are unconstitutional. See [147] Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 102-11. We have bifurcated the statutory preclearance and constitutional issues, and will address the latter in the course of future proceedings in this case.


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