Judge Timothy Corrigan ruled there was not enough proof to show that the change approved last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature would harm black Americans' right to vote.
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., along with the Duval County Democratic Party and a civil rights group, challenged the law this summer in federal court.
Their lawsuit contended the change was discriminatory because blacks voted early in higher percentages, especially during the 2008 election in which President Barack Obama carried Florida. They were especially critical of the new law because it eliminated early voting on the Sunday before Election Day when black churches would organize “souls to the polls” drives.
Corrigan, who was appointed by resident George W. Bush, stated that while he acknowledged the “understandable concerns about how the change in the law might impact African American voters, the court concludes that the new law will not impermissibly burden the ability of African Americans to vote.”
Corrigan added that while there was not much information about why lawmakers made the change, he could not conclude that it was done to discriminate. He also pointed out that most urban counties planned to offer 96 hours of early voting, including 12 hours on the Sunday two weekends before Election Day.
“The new statute will actually serve to increase the availability of Sunday voting,” Corrigan wrote.
The decision does not mean that the lawsuit is over but there is little chance that Florida's early voting period for this crucial presidential election will return to the 14 days that it was four years ago.