A federal judge on Wednesday questioned the decision by the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature to limit the number of early voting days heading into this year’s crucial presidential election. Judge Timothy Corrigan, an appointee of President George W. Bush, held a three-hour hearing in a Jacksonville courtroom on whether he should block the 2011 law that cut the number of days from 14 to eight. The court battle comes just weeks before voting is scheduled to start in the key swing state and is one among a series of legal battles dealing with Florida voting procedures. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., as well as the Duval County Democratic Party and a civil rights group, filed a lawsuit this summer that challenges the law. Their lawsuit contends that the move was discriminatory because blacks voted early in higher percentages, especially during the 2008 election in which President Barack Obama carried Florida.
Corrigan did not rule Wednesday but said he would soon. He peppered both sides with questions on whether he should grant the request from Brown and the others who were challenging the law. He made it clear that he didn’t understand the rationale for why state lawmakers decided to change the number of days. He said there appeared to be little evidence in the record on what prompted legislators to act. “This was a resolution in search of no problem,” Corrigan told lawyers for the state of Florida at one point.
George Meros, a Tallahassee attorney representing the state, contended that legislators may have had private conversations with local election supervisors before deciding to pass the law. He said one reason for the law was to give counties flexibility. Counties are allowed to spread the hours the polls are open over eight calendar days in order to give early voters a total of between 48 and 96 hours of access to voting booths.