Prior to 2013, one of the ways in which the Voting Rights Act guarded against discriminatory voting laws and procedures was to require certain state and local governments to obtain prior approval (“preclearance”) from the Justice Department or a federal court before changing their election rules.
Five of Florida’s 67 counties were covered by the preclearance requirement. In this lawsuit, Florida sought preclearance to implement in those counties several changes to its voting laws, including restrictions on third-party voter registration activities, a reduction in the days of early voting, and new limits on election-day address changes. Florida also alleged that if preclearance were not granted the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional as applied to it. To support the Voting Rights Act, the ACLU intervened in the case on behalf of several racial and language minority voters in the covered counties, the Supervisors of Elections in two of the counties, Project Vote, Voting for America, and the AFL-CIO of Florida.
After several months of intensive discovery, the parties assembled an 11,345-page evidentiary record, and in June and July 2012, a three-judge district court held four days of trial and two days of oral argument. After Florida made some major changes to its new procedures in order to obtain approval, the court precleared them, and the constitutional claims were dismissed as moot.