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Florida Republicans intentionally targeted Black voters, DoJ says in court filing

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People march in support of voting rights during a parade before Martin Luther King Jr day in Eatonville, Florida, on 15 January. (File photo)

Florida Republicans intentionally targeted African-American voters last year when they enacted restrictions on election drop boxes, according to the US Department of Justice.

The drop-box restrictions were approved by the state's Republicans in an effort to change elections laws after former President Donald Trump lost his 2020 re-election bid.

The restrictions were imposed on the availability of absentee ballot drop boxes, regulations for third party voter registration groups, and a ban on providing food and water to people standing in line to vote. 

In March, US District Judge Mark Walker blocked the restrictions, saying that the risk of racial discrimination was so severe.

However, the US court of appeals for the 11th circuit paused that ruling earlier this year while it considers an appeal from Florida officials.

In a court filing on Wednesday, the DoJ said the Florida law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting practices.

"The district court’s core factual findings are that, in the face of surging turnout in the 2020 election, the Florida Legislature responded by enacting provisions that impose disparate burdens on Black voters,” DoJ lawyers wrote in their brief.

"The court’s findings of discriminatory intent are a permissible view of the record based on the entirety of the evidence," they said.

Florida lawyers, however, dispute the idea that the law is racially discriminatory.

In his March ruling, Walker said Florida needed to get approval from a federal court for the next decade moving for changes in its voting law.

Lawmakers in 47 states introduced more than 360 bills last year with provisions that restrict voting access.

The legislative blitz, which followed Joe Biden’s victory over Trump, disproportionately targets voters of color, in particular Black voters, who played a critical role in winning both the White House and the US Senate for Democrats.

According to analysts, the move intends to ensure power for White men and keep it at a distance for everyone else, most especially Black Americans.

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