The Republican Party Committees of Broward, Clay and Sarasota counties will be allowed to participate in a federal lawsuit filed against the State of Florida by Congresswoman Brown, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Jacksonville chapter, individual Duval residents, and the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee over early voting laws. The Democratic parties argue for more early voting. The Republican parties oppose expansion of early voting hours. Judge Timothy Corrigan of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida granted the Republicans' motion today.
"This action confirms what we already know," said Brown. "Republicans don't want people to vote. There's no other explanation for their repeated attempts to restrict early voting."
A 2011 law reduced early voting in Florida from twelve days to eight, gave county supervisors wide discretion over early voting hours, and eliminated voting on the last Sunday before election-day. Brown and others argue that the new law violates the Voting Rights Act because minority voters disproportionately use early voting.
In 2008, 54% of African American voters in Florida used early voting -- twice the rate of white voters. County election supervisors have warned that shorter early voting hours will lead to long lines, overcrowding, and confusion during early voting and election-day. These problems will discourage voting, according to Brown and other activists.
The Republicans' motion claims that expanding early voting "would result in substantial harm" to their efforts to register voters, educate them, and get out the vote. Republicans claim they "must intervene in this action to protect their interests in promoting Republican candidates in the state of Florida, ensuring that Florida's voters are informed, and ensuring that elections are open and fair, and to protect the interests of the candidates and voters."
In separate litigation, federal court in Washington D.C. recently ruled that cutting the number of early voting hours in five counties violated the Voting Rights Act because fewer hours disproportionately harmed minority voters. Those counties agreed to double the number of hours from forty-eight to ninety-six. The United States Department of Justice accepted this settlement.