League of Women Voters of Fla., Inc. v. Lee

Decision Date31 March 2022
Docket NumberCase No.: 4:21cv186-MW/MAF,4:21cv187-MW/MAF, 4:21cv201-MW/MJF, 4:21cv242-MW/MAF
Citation595 F.Supp.3d 1042
Parties LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF FLORIDA, INC., et al., Plaintiffs, v. Laurel M. LEE, in her official capacity as Florida Secretary of State, et al., Defendants, and National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republican National Committee, Intervenor-Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Florida

Aria Christine Branch, David Robert Fox, Elisabeth C. Frost, Pro Hac Vice, Francesca Ashley Gibson, Lalitha D. Madduri, Christina A. Ford, Marc E. Elias, Elias Law Group, Washington, DC, Danielle E. Sivalingam, Perkins Coie LLP, Los Angeles, CA, David Lee Anstaett, Perkins Coie LLP, Madison, WI, Thomas Alan Zehnder, Frederick Stanton Wermuth, King Blackwell Zehnder & Wermuth PA, Orlando, FL, for Plaintiffs League of Women Voters of Florida Inc., League of Women Voters of Florida Education Fund Inc., Black Voters Matter Fund Inc., Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Inc., Cecile Scoon, Robert Brigham, Alan Madison.

David Robert Fox, Elisabeth C. Frost, Pro Hac Vice, Francesca Ashley Gibson, Elias Law Group, Washington, DC, Danielle E. Sivalingam, Perkins Coie LLP, Los Angeles, CA, David Lee Anstaett, Perkins Coie LLP, Madison, WI, Frederick Stanton Wermuth, King Blackwell Zehnder etc. PA, Orlando, FL, for Plaintiff Susan Rogers.

Elisabeth C. Frost, Pro Hac Vice, Elias Law Group, Elisabeth Susan Theodore, Janine Marie Lopez, Jeremy Karpatkin, John A. Freedman, Arnold & Porter LLP, Washington, DC, Aaron Stiefel, Arnold & Porter LLP, Brenda Wright, Kira Romero-Craft, Demos, New York, NY, Emily Miranda Galindo, Latino Justice Prldef, Tampa, FL, Jeffrey Andrew Miller, Arnold & Porter LLP, Palo Alto, CA, for Plaintiffs Florida Rising Together, Unidosus, Equal Ground Education Fund, Hispanic Federation, Poder Latinx.

Elisabeth C. Frost, Pro Hac Vice, Elias Law Group, Washington, DC, Brenda Wright, Kira Romero-Craft, Demos, New York, NY, for Plaintiff Faith in Florida.

Elisabeth C. Frost, Pro Hac Vice, Elias Law Group, Amia Trigg, NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund Inc., Benjamin Louis Baer Cavataro, Elizabeth T. Fouhey, Covington & Burling LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs Florida State Conference of Branches and Youth Units of the Naacp, Common Cause, Disability Rights Florida.

Michelle E. Kanter Cohen, Fair Elections Center, Washington, DC, Nancy Gbana Abudu, Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, AL, for Plaintiff Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters, Corp.

Dallin B. Holt, John J. Cycon, Kenneth Clark Daines, Phillip Michael Gordon, Holtzman Vogel Baran et al., Haymarket, VA, Ashley E. Davis, Colleen E. O'Brien, Florida Department of State, Bilal Ahmed Faruqui, Karen Ann Brodeen, William David Chappell, Office of the Attorney General, Bradley Robert McVay, Florida Department of State Office of General Counsel, Gary Vergil Perko, Mohammad Omar Jazil, Holtzman Vogel Baran et al., William Henry Stafford, III, Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL, for Defendant Laurel M. Lee.

Rachel Rose Siegel, Bilal Ahmed Faruqui, Karen Ann Brodeen, William Edward Chorba, William Henry Stafford, III, Florida Office of the Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL, for Defendant Ashley Moody.

Diana Masters Johnson, Robert Charles Swain, Alachua County Attorneys Office, Gainesville, FL, for Defendant Kim A. Barton.

Edward Paul Cuffe, Susan Smith Erdelyi, Marks Gray PA, Jacksonville, FL, for Defendants Chris Milton, Mark Andersen, Amanda Seyfang, Sharon Chason, Tomi S. Brown, Starlet Cannon, Heather Riley, Shirley Knight, Laura Hutto, Carol Dunaway, Travis Hart, Grant Conyers, Janet H. Adkins, Charles Overturf, Tappie A. Villane, Vicky Oakes, William Keen, Jennifer M. Kinsey, Dana Southerland, Deborah Osborne, Joseph Morgan, Bobby Beasley, Carol F. Rudd.

Frank Michael Mari, John M. Janousek, Roper PA, Orlando, FL, for Defendants Lori Scott, Mark F. Negley, Kaiti Lenhart, Connie Sanchez, John Hanlon, Penny Ogg, Marty Bishop, Heath Driggers.

Benjamin Salzillo, Brendalyn Edwards, Joseph K. Jarone, Nathaniel Adam Klitsberg, Broward County Attorney's Office, Fort Lauderdale, FL, for Defendant Joe Scott.

Andy V. Bardos, James Timothy Moore, Jr., GrayRobinson PA, Tallahassee, FL, for Defendants Paul A. Stamoulis, Jennifer J. Edwards, Leslie Swan, Alan Hays, Tommy Doyle, Michael Bennett, Wesley Wilcox, Joyce Griffin, Brian Corley, Christopher Anderson.

Dale A. Scott, Roper PA, Orlando, FL, for Defendant Maureen Baird.

John T. Lavia, III, Gardner Bist Bowden et al., Ronald A. Labasky, Brewton Plante PA, Tallahassee, FL, for Defendants Chris H. Chambless, Vicki Davis, Mary Jane Arrington, Lori Edwards, Gertrude Walker.

Craig Dennis Feiser, Mary Margaret Giannini, City of Jacksonville Office of General Counsel, Jacksonville, FL, for Defendant Mike Hogan.

Kia M. Johnson, Clark Partington, Matthew Reed Shaud, Escambia County Attorneys Office, Pensacola, FL, for Defendant David H. Stafford.

Geraldo Francis Olivo, III, Henderson Franklin Starnes etc., Robert C. Shearman, Alachua County Attorney's Office, Fort Myers, FL, for Defendants Aletris Farnam, Diane Smith, Brenda Hoots, Therisa Meadows, Tammy Jones, Melissa Arnold.

Jon A. Jouben, Hernando County, Brooksville, FL, Kyle J. Benda, Hernando County Attorneys Office, Brooksville, FL, for Defendant Shirley Anderson.

Stephen Mark Todd, Office of the County Attorney, Tampa, FL, for Defendant Craig Latimer.

Mark Herron, Patrick Scott O'Bryant, Summer Denay Brown, Messer Caparello & Self PA, Tallahassee, FL, for Defendant Mark Earley.

Michael Beny Valdes, Oren Rosenthal, Miami-Dade County Attorneys Office, Miami, FL, for Defendant Christina White.

Elizabeth Desloge Ellis, Gregory Thomas Stewart, Kirsten H. Mood, Nabors Giblin & Nickerson PA, Tallahassee, FL, for Defendant Paul A. Lux.

Nicholas Ari Shannin, Shannin Law Firm PA, Orlando, FL, for Defendant Bill Cowles.

Ashley Dolan Houlihan, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, West Palm Beach, FL, Ronald A. Labasky, Brewton Plante PA, Tallahassee, FL, for Defendant Wendy Link.

Jared Douglas Kahn, Kelly Lynn Vicari, Pinellas County Attorneys Office, Clearwater, FL, for Defendant Julie Marcus.

Morgan Ray Bentley, Bentley & Bruning PA, Asarasota, FL, for Defendant Ron Turner.

London Lee Ott, William Kevin Bledsoe, Volusia County Attorney, DeLand, FL, for Defendant Lisa Lewis.

Mohammad Omar Jazil, Holtzman Vogel Baran et al., Tallahassee, FL, for Defendant Governor of Florida.

Benjamin J. Gibson, Amber Stoner Nunnally, Daniel Elden Nordby, George N. Meros, Jr., Tara R. Price, Shutts & Bowen LLP, Tallahassee, FL, Cameron Thomas Norris, Steven Christopher Begakis, Daniel Joseph Shapiro, Consovoy McCarthy PLLC, Arlington, VA, Tyler R. Green, Consovoy McCarthy PLLC, Salt Lake City, UT, Frank A. Zacherl, Shutts & Bowen LLP, Miami, FL, for Intervenor-Defendants.

FINAL ORDER FOLLOWING BENCH TRIAL

Mark E. Walker, Chief United States District Judge This case is about our sacred right to vote—won at great cost in blood and treasure.1 Courts have long recognized that, because "the right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civil and political rights, any alleged infringement of the right of citizens to vote must be carefully and meticulously scrutinized." Reynolds v. Sims , 377 U.S. 533, 561–62, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964). Applying that maxim, this Court must rule on the legality of Florida Senate Bill 90—a sweeping package of amendments to the Florida Election Code—that Plaintiffs challenge under the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

Defendants argue that SB 90 makes minor prophylactic changes to the election code. Plaintiffs2 , on the other hand, allege that SB 90 runs roughshod over the right to vote, unnecessarily making voting harder for all eligible Floridians, unduly burdening disabled voters, and intentionally targeting minority voters—all to improve the electoral prospects of the party in power. This Court has received thousands of pages of evidence—plus thousands more pages of briefing—and has heard two weeks’ worth of testimony from 42 witnesses, ranging from state senators to statisticians.3 Having reviewed all the evidence, this Court finds that, for the most part, Plaintiffs are right. Thus, as explained in detail below, this Court enjoins Defendants from enforcing most of SB 90's challenged provisions.

In so ruling, this Court recognizes that the right to vote, and the VRA particularly, are under siege. See, e.g., Ark. State Conf. NAACP v. Ark. Bd. of Apportionment , No. 4:21-cv-01239-LPR, ––– F.Supp.3d ––––, ––––, 2022 WL 496908, at *2 (E.D. Ark. Feb. 17, 2022) (dismissing a "strong merits case" that Arkansas had, to the detriment of Black voters, racially gerrymandered seats in the Arkansas House of Representatives under the theory that no private right of action is available under section 2 of the VRA); Merrill v. Milligan , ––– U.S. ––––, 142 S. Ct. 879, ––– L.Ed.2d –––– (2022) (staying, without explanation, order enjoining racially gerrymandered congressional maps); Brnovich v. Democratic Nat'l Comm. , ––– U.S. ––––, 141 S. Ct. 2321, 2351, 210 L.Ed.2d 753 (2021) (Kagan, J., dissenting) ("Today, the Court undermines Section 2 [of the VRA] and the right it provides."); Shelby Cnty., Ala. v. Holder , 570 U.S. 529, 133 S.Ct. 2612, 186 L.Ed.2d 651 (2013) (gutting the VRA's preclearance regime).

Federal courts must not lose sight of the spirit that spurred the VRA's passage. In June 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter to the New York Amsterdam News urging Congress to pass the VRA. In it, he wrote that "to deny a person the right to exercise his political freedom at the polls is no less a dastardly act as to deny a Christian the right to petition God in prayer." Martin Luther King Jr., Let My People Vote , The Atlantic, https://tinyurl.com/2sfx63u4 (last visited Mar. 22, 2022). Federal courts would...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 cases
  • The Brooklyn Branch of the Nat'l Ass'n for the Advancement of Colored People v. Kosinski
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • February 23, 2023
    ...a bench trial. See generally League of Women Voters of Fl., Inc. v. Lee, 595 F.Supp.3d 1042 (N.D. Fl. 2022) (“LOWV”). The statute at issue in LOWV made it a crime to, within 150 feet of polling place, “engag[e] in any activity with the intent to influence or effect of influencing a voter[.]......
  • Hill v. Town of Valley Brook
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Oklahoma
    • March 31, 2022
    ... ... 5 See id. 6 Brokers Choice of Am., Inc. v. NBC Univ., Inc. , 861 F.3d 1081, 1105 (10th Cir ... ...
3 books & journal articles

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT