Congresswoman Corrine Brown praised the ruling by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that requires Florida to expand in-person early voting in November. The ruling applies only in five counties covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A lawsuit filed by Congresswoman Brown, along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Jacksonville chapter, several individual Duval residents, and the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee, would expand early voting days and hours in the entire state.
"Today's ruling validates the key claims of our lawsuit," Brown said. "There is no question that African Americans disproportionately rely on early in-person voting and changing the rules is likely to result in fewer of them voting. The court rightly saw through the state's failure to provide any explanation for restricting the opportunity to vote. I am very confident this ruling will eventually be applied to the entire state."
A 2011 law reduced early voting to eight days from twelve, gave county supervisors wide discretion over the hours polls are open, and eliminated voting on the last Sunday before election day. The court found that reducing in the number of hours available for early voting imposes a material burden on minority voters that is impermissible under the Voting Rights Act.
"Florida has failed to meet its burden of showing that retrogression would not occur if the covered counties not only reduced the number of early voting days from 12 to 8 as required by the new law, but also reduced their total early voting hours from 96 to 48 (regardless of the specific hours chosen)," the court held. The court noted that under the law, county election officials would be free to open polls during the week during business hours when most people are at work. Testimony from election officials acknowledged that curtailed early voting hours will lead to substantially longer lines during early voting and election day. Longer lines are likely to discourage people from voting, the court said.
On September 19, Judge Timothy Corrigan of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida will hear Congresswoman Brown's motion for a preliminary injunction to start early voting 15 days before Election Day and to continue it through the Sunday before Election Day with guaranteed hours.