LDF’s Lawsuit Challenging Florida’s S.B. 90

Date Filed: 05/06/2021

In May 2021, LDF filed a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee challenging Florida’s new law that greatly restricts voting access. The lawsuit argues that S.B. 90 creates unnecessary barriers and burdens that disproportionately impact Black and Latinx voters, and voters with disabilities, violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In March 2022, Florida voters secured an important victory when a federal judge struck down Florida’s suppressive voting law, S.B. 90, ruling that it violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The court will also retain jurisdiction of this case for 10 years, during which Florida may not enact any law concerning drop boxes or line relief without permission from the court, known as pre-clearance.

The court struck down the below provisions in S.B. 90 challenged by the lawsuit:

  • Limitations on where, when, and how drop boxes can be used.
  • A vague and overbroad prohibition on conduct near polling places, including likely criminalizing offering free food, water, and other relief to Florida voters waiting in long lines.

Read Judge Walker’s decision here.

Turnout in the 2020 general election was over 77%, the highest in 28 years in Florida— despite an ongoing global pandemic. About 44% of votes were cast by mail. Over 500,000 Black voters cast mail ballots in 2020, more than twice as many as in 2016 and 2018. S.B. 90 and its severe restrictions on the vote-by-mail process is a direct response to unprecedented Black participation in vote-by-mail in the 2020 election. The Legislature enacted S.B 90. despite there being no evidence of fraud or irregularities in the 2020 Florida elections. 

LDF's Lawsuit Challenges Several Provisions of S.B. 90:

    • New and burdensome identification requirements for voters requesting vote-by-mail (“VBM”) ballots.
    • Restrictions and burdensome requirements for standing VBM applications.
    • Severe limitations on where, when, and how drop boxes can be used.
    • Limitations on third-party VBM ballot return.
    • A vague and overbroad definition of prohibited conduct near polling places that could make it a crime for individuals to provide free food, water, and other relief to Florida voters waiting in long lines.

    S.B. 90's worst provisions:

    • S.B. 90 imposes unnecessary requirements on voters requesting vote-by-mail ballots. Voters will now be required to provide sensitive identification information over the phone or in the mail, such as the last four digits of their social security number, to request their vote-by-mail ballot. Voters who may not have the requested identification would be blocked from requesting a vote-by-mail ballot.
    • S.B. 90 restricts who may return completed vote-by-mail ballots, making it a crime for for anyone to possess or return more than two completed vote-by-mail ballots for voters who are not family members. Third-party ballot return is especially important for Black and Latino voters, who are less likely to have access to a vehicle, or be able to secure time off work, as well as voters with disabilities who are more likely to need help returning their vote-by-mail ballots.
    • S.B. 90 forces voters to renew vote-by-mail requests each general election cycle, ending the “standing” applications that were valid for up to two general election cycles (four years).
    • S.B. 90 places extreme restrictions on the availability of drop boxes, requiring all drop boxes to be monitored by elections officials at all times, and limiting the use of drop boxes to limited hours and days of early voting. 
    • S.B. 90 likely makes it a crime to provide relief to voters waiting in long lines, including by providing free water or snacks. Specifically, S.B. 90 dramatically—and vaguely—prohibits any activity within 150 feet of polling places or drop boxes that may “influence” a voter. 

    Florida is Not Alone: Threats to Voting Rights in Other States

    Florida’s S.B. 90 is just one of the many voter suppression bills driven by baseless allegations of fraud introduced in the wake of the 2020 election. Legislators are following the same model to restrict voting access – using false information to stoke fear in an otherwise secure electoral process. The Brennan Center’s State Voting Bills Tracker counts more than 400 restrictive voting bills introduced in legislatures across the country. 

    • In Georgia, legislators have enacted burdensome, unjustified, and unnecessary restrictions on voters by imposing narrow identification requirements for requesting and casting an absentee ballot, imposing restrictions on drop boxes, drastically reducing early voting in runoff elections, and making it a crime for volunteers to provide water and snacks to voters waiting in line. LDF filed a lawsuit challenging the law.
    • In Michigan, legislators have introduced 39 voter suppression bills just months after a record 5.5 million people voted. Among the restrictions included in the bills, absentee ballots could only be returned using a drop box until 5 p.m. the day before the election; the Secretary of State would be prevented from sending out mass absentee ballot applications; and prepaid postage for absentee ballot return envelopes would be prohibited.
    • Texas passed an extremely restrictive voting bill, S.B. 1. Among the measures that will impact voters of color, S.B. 1 reduces early voting hours and eliminates 24-hour voting, eliminates drive-thru voting centers, prohibits mail-in ballot drop-boxes, and places new restrictions on the distribution of mail-in ballots and mail-in ballot applications. LDF filed a lawsuit challenging the law.