In March 2022, left-wing U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued a lengthy ruling in which he essentially declared that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and GOP lawmakers in the Legislature were borderline Ku Klux Klansmen for enacting a new voting-integrity law.
Walker, appointed by former President Barack Obama, churned out a massive 288-page ruling in response to a discrimination lawsuit brought by the liberal League of Women Voters.
In his decision that branded the 2021 law racist and unconstitutional, Walker noted that “every single challenged provision has a disparate impact on Black voters in some way.” In another sentence, he noted the state of Florida “has repeatedly, recently, and persistently acted to deny Black Floridians access to the franchise.”
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“This court further finds that, to advance the Legislature’s main goal of favoring Republicans over Democrats, the Legislature enacted some of SB 90’s provisions with the intent to target Black voters because of their propensity to favor Democratic candidates,” Walker claimed.
He added that the GOP-led Legislature would not have passed the law unless it harbored “an intent to discriminate against Black voters.”
“The evidence before this court also shows that, for the past 20 years, the Legislature has given into that temptation [to target the particular racial groups that support the minority party] by repeatedly targeting Black voters because of their propensity to favor Democratic candidates,” Walker argued.
Walker, as it turned out, spilled plenty of ink and went through more than half a ream of paper for nothing.
This week, as DeSantis and others predicted, the federal appellate court above Walker crushed his decision.
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As the Associated Press reported on Friday, “The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s March 2022 ruling was flawed. The three-judge panel said in a 2-1 split decision that evidence did not show that lawmakers deliberately targeted Black voters.”
The News Service of Florida added that Walker “relied on ‘fatally flawed’ analyses and ‘out-of-context’ statements by legislators” to make his decision.
The News Service quoted Chief Judge William Pryor’s 79-page opinion for the appellate majority, noting that Pryor said Walker’s reasoning “does not withstand examination.”
“The district court relied on fatally flawed statistical analyses, out-of-context statements by individual legislators, and legal premises that do not follow our precedents,” Pryor wrote. “On the contrary, examining the record reveals that the finding of intentional discrimination rests on hardly any evidence.”
Pryor added that Walker had “erred” from the start, and he reminded the Democratic judge and others to be careful “of the danger of allowing old, outdated intentions of previous generations to taint (Florida’s) legislative action forevermore on certain topics.”
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Florida’s “more recent history does not support a finding of discriminatory intent,” Pryor continued. “The only pieces of legislation cited by the district court that were adopted since the year 2000 offer no support for its finding of discriminatory intent.”
DeSantis had predicted this outcome a year ago.
“It was not unforeseen because we typically set our clocks to getting a partisan outcome in [Walker’s] court,” DeSantis told reporters last April.
“I would not want to be on the receiving end of that appeal if I were a judge, because I think that that’s going to be reversed on appeal. The only question is how quickly it gets reversed on appeal. But it’s not going to be able to withstand appellate scrutiny,” he added.
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