Gov. Rick Scott’s elections officials showed “a stark pattern of discrimination” in blocking early voting at state college and university campuses, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. The decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker is yet another voting rights defeat for the Republican governor, and could yet emerge as an issue in his campaign to unseat three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Walker issued a preliminary injunction that directs Scott’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, to tell all 67 counties that they can use campus buildings for early voting this fall. Detzner has until Friday to tell the judge he will obey.
Walker ruled that a 2014 state opinion that banned early voting on campus violates three amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
“Simply put, (the state) opinion reveals a stark pattern of discrimination,” Judge Walker wrote. “It is unexplainable on grounds other than age because it bears so heavily on younger voters than on all other voters. (The state’s) stated interests for the opinion (following state law, avoiding parking issues, and minimizing on-campus disruption) reek of pretext.”