Plaintiffs Challenging Florida’s SB 90 React to 11th Circuit Reversal
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court decision and allowed Florida to continue to force communities of color to navigate unnecessary obstacles in order to vote.
This decision undercuts the thorough analysis of the district court which rightfully found that Florida’s SB 90 was adopted with the intent to discriminate against Black voters in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as well as section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Additionally, the 11th Circuit reversed the decision by the lower court to impose a preclearance requirement under section 3(c) of the Act. This bill was successfully challenged in March 2022 by national and Florida-based groups representing Black and Latinx voters including Equal Ground Education Fund, Florida Rising Together, Hispanic Federation, Poder Latinx, and Unidos US. Advancement Project, Demos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and pro bono counsel from Arnold and Porter filed the lawsuit.
With the reversal, SB 90 will continue to impose harsh restrictions on vote-by-mail drop boxes and on organizations and volunteers helping voters return their vote-by-mail ballots, forcing voters to request a vote-by-mail ballot more frequently and banning any non-poll worker from giving food or drink, including water, to voters waiting in line. It is clear that SB 90 is a flagrant attempt to silence the rising majority of Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous voters in the state of Florida.
Organizations who challenged the ruling offering their reactions:
“SB 90 is one of the most suppressive pieces of voting legislation in the country. It’s a deliberate and targeted attempt to erode the rights of voters of color who must now work overtime to just cast their vote. It sets a dangerous precedent that the state legislature has the unbridled ability to prevent voters of color from exercising their right to vote. That is not a democracy. ” said Rev. Eddie Hailes, General Counsel, Advancement Project. “But we refuse to lose hope or the will to ensure a free and fair democracy. We will continue to support Florida voters and the local groups that have worked for a better Florida.
“Florida’s SB90 is the antithesis of our democratic ideals. Instead of empowering voters, Florida is silencing them. Instead of making voting easier and more accessible, Florida has built barriers, particularly for Black and brown Floridians.” said Estee Konor, Associate Director of Litigation at Demos. “We are deeply disappointed by the 11th Circuit’s order in this case, but we remain steadfast in this fight with our partners for fair and equal access in Florida.”
“We are beyond disappointed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision. Reversing the district court’s decision furthers state-sponsored voter discrimination and voter suppression in Florida. The ongoing attacks by the state legislature on the rights of immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, and the black and brown residents of the state of Florida make it clear that this is another attempt at diminishing our collective rights,” said Laudi Campo, Hispanic Federation’s Florida State Director. “We will not cower, we will not run away. What we will do is keep challenging the attempts by the state to trample on our rights, and we will continue our work to ensure that Latinos in the state can exercise their right to vote.”
“By keeping some of the provisions of SB90 that have a harmful impact on Black and Latino communities, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has shamefully decided to reaffirm barriers to the vote for historically disenfranchised communities that make up over one-third of the state’s electorate,” said Roberto Cruz, Managing Attorney for Southeast Office of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “This decision is wrong to find that the State of Florida’s limitations of drop-boxes and certain registration requirements were not discriminatory, and is wrong to reverse the district court’s justified decision to require that Florida submit to pre-clearance under Section 3(c) of the federal Voting Rights Act, even as the Court reaffirms some First Amendment rights of civic organizations to engage their communities on voting. We will continue the fight to make the vote in Florida and elsewhere accessible and fair for all.”
“We are deeply disappointed and disturbed by today’s appeals court decision, upholding a racist attack on our voting rights and rejecting the concerns of Black and Brown Floridians who are disproportionately impacted by SB 90. Let’s be clear, Governor DeSantis and the Florida GOP passed this voter suppression law with the intent to silence Black voices and diminish the power of Black voters, who are a threat to their political power.” said Jasmine Burney-Clark, Founder of Equal Ground, a plaintiff in the SB 90 lawsuit. “This law undoes the progress that voting rights groups have made and targets the very tools minority communities, like ours, use to increase voter turnout. We will not be silent. We will keep standing up, calling out discrimination, and exercising our right to vote. The appeals court has assisted Florida Republicans in silencing Black and Brown Floridians, but attacks to suppress our voices are nothing new, and we will adapt, organize, and overcome until we are heard and we are represented.”
# # #
Advancement Project is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change. We are a co-convener of the National Campaign for Police Free schools, a formation of 20+ youth-led grassroots organizations fighting to end the criminalization of youth in the classroom, create liberatory educational spaces, and implement an affirmative vision of safety and transformative justice.Visit www.advancementproject.org to learn more.