By Jonathan Ben-Menachem in Bolts. Here is an excerpt:
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis grabbed headlines throughout 2022 for practices that weakened democracy—from creating a police force to monitor voting to coordinating the arrests of people who allegedly voted illegally after the state told them they were eligible. In August, he suspended Tampa’s elected prosecutor, Democrat Andrew Warren, over his stated refusal to prosecute cases relating to abortion and trans rights, overriding voters’ decision.
But a host of more routine decisions made by Florida officials may be undermining the health of the state’s elections as well, even when they don’t seem directly related to voting rights.
To replace Warren as state attorney of Hillsborough County (home to Tampa), DeSantis appointed Susan Lopez, a member of the conservative Federalist Society. One of Lopez’s first decisions was to rescind a policy implemented by Warren to not prosecute bicyclists and pedestrians for certain traffic charges. A 2015 Tampa Bay Times report exposed the Tampa police department’s relentless ticketing of Black cyclists for things like having inadequate lighting, or riding on handlebars, a dynamic local organizers have labeled “bicycling while Black.” The report catalyzed a Justice Department investigation which ultimately confirmed the disproportionate enforcement.
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