ATLANTA, GEORGIA — On Thursday, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit refused to take a second look at its decision to overturn a lower court’s ruling against Florida’s common-sense elections provisions signed into law by Governor DeSantis in 2021.
“Today, the full United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rightly voted against rehearing the reversal of an activist judge and affirmed, yet again, Florida’s common-sense elections provisions signed into law by Governor DeSantis in 2021,” the governor’s press secretary Jeremy Redfern said in a written statement. “We will continue to fight to make Florida’s elections secure, efficient, and transparent.”
Last year, plaintiffs – including the League of Women Voters of Florida – filed a lawsuit protesting that the new law would severely disadvantage minority voters. After a two-week trial, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled that Florida has “a decades-long pattern of voting legislation discriminating against Black people.”
Walker went further, ordering the state to submit any election law revisions to the U.S. Department of Justice for preclearance under Section 3 of the VRA for ten years. But a three-judge appeals panel overturned Walker’s ruling and allowed enforcement of SB 90.
A fierce obstacle to DeSantis’ conservative agenda in Florida, Judge Walker has repeatedly struck down legislation signed by the governor. From his perch as chief judge for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee, the Obama appointee often laces colorful language with his opinions chastising controversial state legislation.
Last year, he struck down Florida’s “Stop Woke Act,” (HB 7) restricting how university professors can present their curriculum intended to keep critical race theory out of state-college curricula. In a 139-page opinion, Walker started with a quote from George Orwell’s novel “1984” and called the law “positively dystopian.”
In the appeals court ruling in April, Chief Judge William Pryor said, “The lower court used “out-of-context statements by individual legislators” and “flawed statistical analyses” in deciding the law was discriminatory. There was “hardly any evidence” of intentional discrimination, Judge Pryor argued.
In Thursday’s decision, Pryor wrote an opinion explaining his reason for voting against a rehearing, noting that a solid majority in the House and Senate voted in favor of SB 90 without observing that they were party-line votes.