A federal court on Thursday gave five Florida counties four extra days ofearly voting in this fall's elections.
The Republican-controlled Florida legislature last year cut the state's number of early-voting days to 8 from 12. But the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the changes won't happen in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe counties, which are covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
That section requires election changes to be cleared by federal officials or federal judges. The states covered under Section 5 are mostly in the South and all have a history of discriminating against blacks, American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaskan Natives or Hispanics.
The three-judge panel said Thursday that the reduction in early voting days in those counties "would make it materially more difficult for some minority voters to cast a ballot." But the 119-page ruling did say there were ways Florida could change its early voting practices that would not adversely impact minority voting rights.
A spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the changes into law last year, called that part of the decision "encouraging."