Appeals Court Upholds Key Provisions of 2021 Florida Election Integrity Law, Reversing Same Judge Handling Disney Case
“Because we hold that the findings of intentional racial discrimination rest on both legal errors and clearly erroneous findings of fact and that only part of the solicitation provision is unconstitutional, we reverse in part, affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand.”
Last we checked in on the 2021 Florida Election Integrity Law championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had stayed an Order by District Court Judge Mark Walker that excoriated the provisions. We covered it in Florida Voter Integrity Law Reinstated By Appeals Court In Big Win For DeSantis:
One year ago, Florida Governor Ron Desantis signed a voter integrity law that curtailed ballot harvesting, the use of drop boxes, and Zuck Bucks (private money to run election functions) …
On March 31 of this year, liberal District Court Judge Mark Walker issued an injunction halting several provisions, which ruling had little chance of surviving appeal, as the NY Times predicted:
A federal judge in Florida ruled on Thursday that sections of the state’s year-old election law were unconstitutional and racially motivated, and barred the state from making similar changes to its laws in the next decade without the approval of the federal government.
The sharply worded 288-page order, issued by Judge Mark E. Walker of the Federal District Court in Tallahassee, was the first time a federal court had struck down major elements of the wave of voting laws enacted by Republicans since the 2020 election. Finding a pattern of racial bias, Walker in his ruling relied on a little-used legal provision to impose unusual federal restrictions on how a state legislates….
And Judge Walker’s ruling didn’t survive. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals just issued a stay pending appeal, which mean the law is back in full force and effect.
The ban on Zuck Bucks was not enjoined, but other provisions were. From the 11th Circuit Opinion:
The district court here permanently enjoined three provisions of Florida law governing elections in that state. It also subjected Florida to a “preclearance” regime whereby the state—for the next decade—must seek and receive the district court’s permission before it can enact or amend certain election laws. The state now asks us to stay that decision pending appeal. After careful consideration, we grant the state’s motion….
Judge Walker has a flair for flamboyant opinions, particularly when directed at actions by DeSantis, such as his ruling against the Stop Woke Act, which quoted George Orwell in an introduction made for the media:
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,”1 and the powers in charge of Florida’s public university system have declared the State has unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of “freedom.” To confront certain viewpoints that offend the powers that be, the State of Florida passed the so-called “Stop W.O.K.E.” Act2 in 2022—redubbed (in line with the State’s doublespeak) the “Individual Freedom Act.” The law officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints. Defendants argue that, under this Act, professors enjoy “academic freedom” so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves.3 This is positively dystopian.4 It should go without saying that “[i]f liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”5
[fn. 1 – 1 GEORGE ORWELL, 1984 at 1 (1961). In this case, Defendants’ “argument is like the thirteenth chime of clock: you not only know it’s wrong, but it causes you to wonder about everything you heard before.” United States v. Marchena-Silvestre, 802 F.3d 196, 203 (1st Cir. 2015). Coincidentally, Governor DeSantis signed the law at issue on April 22, 2022.]
That case is on appeal. Walker is also handling the Disney suit recently filed.
The 11th Circuit issued an Opinion on the merits (as opposed to the prior stay motion) of the District Court’s opinion throwing out the Voter Integrity Act. It was not a pretty opinion as directed at Judge Walker. From the Introductory paragraph (emphasis added):
This appeal involves four recently enacted provisions of Florida’s election law, including provisions that regulate ballot drop boxes, the solicitation of voters at the polls, and the delivery of voter-registration forms by third-party voter-registration organizations. Several plaintiff organizations sued the Florida Secretary of State, the Florida Attorney General, and several Supervisors of Elections. After a bench trial, the district court enjoined three provisions because it found they were 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. And it imposed a preclearance requirement under section 3(c) of the Act. The district court also ruled that the solicitation provision was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Finally, it enjoined a provision that required third-party voter-registration organizations to provide a disclaimer to voters who use their services to register to vote, but all parties agree that any appeal of the judgment as to that provision has been rendered moot by the repeal of the provision. Because we hold that the findings of intentional racial discrimination rest on both legal errors and clearly erroneous findings of fact and that only part of the solicitation provision is unconstitutional, we reverse in part, affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand.
The Opinion was pretty scathing:
The District Court actually relied on statements by opponents of the bill to infer intent on the part of the legislators. pic.twitter.com/RvUwV0RFLC
— The Notorious B-O-O (@IzaBooboo) April 27, 2023
District court: There's no evidence of racial animus in contemporaneous statements of legislators so I'll just take this one comment out of context.
11th Circuit: NOPE pic.twitter.com/Acv2L66WJy
— The Notorious B-O-O (@IzaBooboo) April 27, 2023
The Opinion was greeted with shock and awe by groups that had claimed it was a voter suppression law:
Even Democracy Docket doesn't try and spin its own founder's failure in the challenge to Florida's election integrity legislation. Elias is doing a great job at making bad law for his side one federal circuit at a time. https://t.co/mo9SKEJoxc
— Justin Riemer (@Justin_Riemer) April 27, 2023
Team DeSantis is celebrating (emphasis added):
In an extraordinary move, the judge in the 2022 decision, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, ordered the state to get court approval for a decade before it enacts changes in three areas of election law.
But on Thursday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Walker’s 288-page order was based on legal errors and “clearly erroneous” findings of fact. The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for review.
It also reversed the requirement that Florida needs prior clearance to change parts of voting law. It affirmed Walker’s ruling that a restriction on soliciting voters within 150 feet of a ballot drop box was unconstitutionally vague.
Jeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary to DeSantis, hailed the ruling as a “great win for Florida’s voters.” Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of Equal Ground, which was a plaintiff in the case, said she was disappointed and maintained that the election law diminished the power of Black voters.
It’s not unreasonable to expect a DeSantis loss before Judge Walker in the Disney case, and a repeat of the 11th Circuit reversing.
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Judge Mark Walker’s “rulings are like the thirteenth chime of the clock: you not only know it’s wrong, but it causes you to wonder about everything you heard before.”
And unlike a broken clock, Walker isn’t even correct twice a day.
This is a good reminder the ruling we know we will get from this activist on Disney’s lawsuit isn’t the end and will not be upheld.
I would think the judge will not want to be reversed in two high profile cases. He will be judicious.
Every single time we’ve assumed that from a Leftist judge who just got an appeal pie to the face, it has been wrong. They double down, or triple, determined to go out as a champion of their Leftist buddies.
Upon further reflection I’m sure you’re correct.
This judge ordered FL dept of corrections to continue to provide hormones to trannies and provide appropriate undergarments. Also ruled for felons to regain the right to vote upon release from prison. Keohane and Hand were plaintiffs. Obama judge.
And what penalty does this insane leftist activist pay for a fact-free, unhinged, 288 page rant and trying to demand that Florida seek his personal approval for the next TEN YEARS for the slightest change in election law?
That’s why there are so many insane leftist judges issuing insane rulings. Because no matter how ludicrous, their only penalty is being overruled.
Would it surprise you that judge Mark Walker is an Obama Judge?
Wait! Give me a moment to put on my shocked face…
OK. I was worried I couldn’t find it.
Mine broke more than a year ago. 😕
Remember guys, it’s racist to require voters to show ID to vote, (because liberals believe black people are too stupid to get free ID cards?).
BUT it’s NOT racist to require ID to…..
Open a checking account,
Cash a check,
File a police complaint,
Join the military,
Get a drivers license,
Receive public assistance,
Apply for food stamps,
Fly on an airplane,
Enter a Federal building.
I never could understand how the Democrats could say that some minority person on welfare was too stupid to use the same ID they use for their welfare check to vote.
Because leftists don’t have principles. They have goals. They don’t think lying is wrong. They think failing to lie to advance toward their goals is wrong.
You also need ID to attend the Dem National Convention.
Before you celebrate too hard, just remember two things.
1. Just because there are laws on the books doesn’t mean that blue jurisdiction election officials have to follow them.
“elections officials in Texas explain how non-citizens can vote in the November 6th 2018 Election”
2. As long as the fraud remains unresolved until inauguration day, the beneficiary of the crime will remain in office.
The fight over how voters become and remain registered to vote is the key issue. Everything else, almost all the potential shenanigans flow from the universe of registered voters. Force the local registrar to do their job and follow the law to remove the dead, the departed, the fraudulent addresses and the ineligible from the rolls and it becomes much harder to create ballots.
Is someone in the GOP maniacally focused on:
1). Creating DeSantis clones in all 50 states; including
2). In Florida for when DeSantis leaves to become President?
Keep the Big Picture front and center.
They are more maniacally focused on preventing the creation of any DeSantis, Trump, or Reagan clones who might actually oppose the Left. At any cost.
Noting for the record that in the unlikely event that we have a real national election next year, with voting restricted to living, breathing people who are citizens properly registered to vote at their home precinct and that if such votes are legally and accurately counted and reported [that is a lot of assumptions that we cannot in any way automatically make anymore]; that while I favor President Trump over Governor DeSantis, I in no way hate DeSantis. If an honest process makes DeSantis the candidate in such an election I would have no problem supporting him from what I know now.
And I welcome this victory by DeSantis and hope for many more by both him and President Trump.
The problem is a Leftist ruling class that does not consider themselves bound by the law or the Constitution, and a supposed “opposition” party that does not see its role as opposing anything the Left does unless forced to. And which is not working to make those former assumptions I listed above real again.
We will see what transpires, in the very near future.