Florida’s decision to reduce the days of early voting discourages African-Americans from voting and cannot take effect in Hillsborough and four other counties in the November election, a panel of judges ruled late Thursday.
The long-awaited decision strikes down changes to early voting in those counties as part of an overhaul of the election laws that has been under steady legal and political assault since it passed the Legislature and was signed into law last year by Gov. Rick Scott.
“The state has failed to satisfy its burden of proving that those changes will not have a retrogressive effect on minority voters,” the judges wrote, adding that a shorter early voting period is “analogous to closing polling places in disproportionately African-American precincts.”
The ruling by a three-judge tribunal in U.S. District Court in Washington means that five counties must offer 12 days of early voting, instead of the eight called for under the new law.