By Brad Friedman on 8/16/2012, 10:58pm PT  

Some good-ish news late tonight for Florida voters, and more bad-ish news for Republican Gov. Rick Scott and friends, as reported by AP:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal court says a Florida law that restricts the number of early-voting days could result in a dramatic reduction in participation by blacks.

The Republican-controlled Florida legislature last year cut the number of early-voting days to 8 from 12.

But the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled late Thursday that because of the law's potential impact on minority voters, it would not allow Florida to put the changes in place in five Florida counties covered by federal voting laws.

The 119-page ruling did say there were ways that the state could ultimately come up with a plan to change early voting that would not adversely affect minority voting rights.

Still, the ruling raises the prospect that Florida will have two different types of early voting for this year's crucial presidential election.

To unpack this (without having looked at the actual ruling yet), while this is certainly positive news in general, it only applies to the five counties in Florida covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Those jurisdictions require pre-clearance from either the U.S. Dept. of Justice or a 3-judge panel from the U.S. District Court in D.C. for new election-related laws, thanks to the long history of racial discrimination in those jurisdictions.

Three of the counties, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe are fairly small, with fewer than 100,000 voters. Collier (home of Naples) has a population of more than 300,000 and the largest of the five, Hillsborough, is home to Tampa, with a population of about 1.2 million voters. It will also be the home of the upcoming Republican National Convention.

As AP notes, that could mean that only those five counties have 12 days of early voting, while the rest of the state (the other 62 counties), are still restricted to 8. Given that Republicans hung a hat on pretending to demand consistent rules across the state for vote counting during the Bush v. Gore fight in 2000, and that the state Supreme Court agreed, I imagine another fight may be in store on this matter, and how the Republican-run state will --- or won't --- enact consistent Early Voting hours across the state.

This case was decided by the U.S. District Court in D.C. because the state of Florida decided to bypass the DoJ, thinking they'd have better luck with the court system. They were wrong.

It's been a tough year for the state of Florida's attempt to game the voting system in their favor this year, so far, under the rule of their Tea Party Governor. Though, lord knows, they've tried.

In May, a federal judge blocked the bulk of their new voter registration restrictions which had forced the League of Women Voters to call off their registration drive in the Sunshine State for the first time in 72 years, rather than face onerous new rules, fines and even jail time. Last month, after almost all of the state's Supervisors of Elections refused to carry out a hugely flawed voter roll purge of "potential non-citizen voters" (almost all of whom were not), Scott and his hand-picked Sec. of State Ken Detzner were forced to halt their purge (subsequently misreported by the corporate mainstream media), even after pretending the federal government was blocking the purge to keep non-citizen voters on the rolls (they weren't, and Florida knew it, as documents we published exclusively proved.)

Oh, and then there was the former state Republican Chair who admitted, under oath, in a 630-page deposition, that party officials "were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting," during his tenure.

Here's a thought, Florida Republicans: Come up with good ideas that help the citizens of the state by improving their general welfare and domestic tranquility and maybe they'll just vote for you all by themselves without you having to game the system and suppress the vote. Or, you can just keep doing what you're doing.

[Hat-tip @JeffersonObama on the Twitters.]

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