WASHINGTON, D.C. — Exactly one year after Florida enacted its voter suppression law, Senate Bill 90, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today reinstated previously-blocked provisions of this law while an appeal is being litigated. In March, a federal district court judge struck down three provisions of S.B. 90 — a line-warming ban, drop box restrictions and registration warning requirement for third-party voter registration organizations — and placed Florida under preclearance requirements (meaning, the state would have to get approval from the court) before enacting certain election laws for the next 10 years. The state immediately appealed this decision and asked the 11th Circuit to stay — meaning pause — the district court’s order pending the outcome of its appeal. In granting that request today, the 11th Circuit has put the previously-blocked line-warming ban and drop box restrictions back into effect; the third provision, the registration warning requirement, has already been repealed by the Florida Legislature and will no longer be in effect, so it is not addressed by the 11th Circuit’s order today. Today’s order also means that preclearance requirements are lifted pending further court action.
In their order, three 11th Circuit judges — all Trump appointees — held that they must apply the Purcell principle, which states that courts should not change voting or election rules close to an election in order to avoid confusion for voters and election officials alike. Noting that the U.S. Supreme Court “has never specified precisely what it means to be ‘on the eve of an election’ for Purcell purposes,” the panel concluded that this case fits within time limits suggested by Purcell. Pointing to Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s non-binding concurrence in the order to reinstate Alabama’s congressional map more than four months before its primary elections, the panel held that Florida’s primary elections — which were four months away when the district court’s order came down in March — are similarly too close to allow for any election changes, particularly given that voter registration efforts are already underway. The 11th Circuit will now review the merits of the appeal to determine whether or not the district court’s conclusions were correct.