Department of Justice files ‘statement of interest’ in Florida voting law case

Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — The U.S. Department of Justice is weighing in on several legal issues in cases challenging Florida’s new voting law.

This week, attorneys for the department filed a statement of interest in the case brought by the Florida State Conference of the NAACP. Similar cases have been brought by the ACLU, League of Women Voters and others.

Those groups argue the “vote-by-mail requests and identification requirements, drop box procedures, non-solicitation restrictions, and voter registration delivery and disclaimer requirements” and other elements of SB 90 could discriminate against some voters.

In its statement, the DOJ explained “Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits…any voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.”

The DOJ is not a party to the case, but filed the brief “to assist the Court in interpreting Sections 2 and 208” of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The statement argues that attorneys for Florida and Secretary of State Laurel Lee “misconstrue the legal standards governing enforcement of these provisions.”

“The DOJ also asserts that the state of Florida misapplied the law,” said Mark Shlakman, professor of law at Florida State University. “So, the DOJ position, and it’s weighing in on a relatively narrow basis, multiple grounds, but it’s really attempting to clarify…that a summary judgment would avoid altogether any focused consideration of the facts.”

The DOJ brief also argues that the state of Florida’s motion for summary judgment “rests on a legal error: it fails to recognize that the burdens imposed by SB 90’s provisions can be compounding, as well as individually burdensome.”

That argument is supported by precedent in similar cases, Shlakman said.

“One seemingly obscure development could have…a cascading effect,” he said.

This case is scheduled for trial on Jan. 31. The state’s motion for summary judgment, if granted, would effectively render that trial moot.

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