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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Judge orders conservative thinktank to turn over communications with lawmakers around Florida's voter suppression bill

Posted By on Thu, Oct 21, 2021 at 10:02 AM

click to enlarge Putting a vote-by-mail ballot in the postbox. - ADOBE
  • Adobe
  • Putting a vote-by-mail ballot in the postbox.

A federal judge has ruled that the conservative Heritage Foundation and its lobbying arm are required to turn over documents to groups challenging the constitutionality of a new Florida elections law.

The Florida State Conference of the NAACP, Common Cause and Disability Rights Florida asked U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks to compel the Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action for American to provide subpoenaed documents that could shed light on the behind-the-scenes development of the controversial law (SB 90).

The Heritage groups fought turning over the documents, arguing that the subpoenas would “chill” First Amendment rights. But Middlebrooks, in an eight-page ruling issued Tuesday, rejected the Heritage groups’ arguments. “Heritage has failed to make the required prima facie showing of infringement of its First Amendment associational privilege,” Middlebrooks wrote.

“First, plaintiffs do not seek to reveal the identities of any Heritage members or donors. As such, the subpoenas do not seek disclosure of the information typically covered by the associational privilege. Moreover, Heritage has failed to demonstrate how disclosure of the specific information plaintiffs request —- Heritage’s external communications with government officials related to Senate Bill 90 —- would subject its members to ‘threats, harassment, or reprisals’ from the government or private individuals.”

The NAACP, Common Cause and Disability Rights Florida filed the lawsuit in May, alleging that the law —- which deals with issues such as voting by mail —- is unconstitutional and is designed to suppress voting by groups such as Black residents. They contend that the Heritage groups were involved with Republican lawmakers this spring in developing the law.

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