University of Florida bans professors from being expert witnesses against the state in voting rights case


By Carma Hassan, Melissa Alonso and Andy Rose, CNN

The University of Florida told three professors hired to testify as expert witnesses in a voting rights case against the state of Florida that they could not participate.

The University of Florida told professors “they are not authorized to serve as experts on behalf of plaintiffs in this case as part of their” outside activities “,” court documents filed in court on Friday say. District of the United States for the North District. of Florida, Tallahassee Division.

The case challenges parts of Florida Senate Bill 90, which, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs, “places substantial and unjustifiable restrictions on the ability of eligible Floridians to vote and register to vote.”

The law added restrictions such as new identification requirements for postal voting, limiting who can return a completed postal ballot, prohibiting the use of nonprofit and private funds to hold elections, extending the power of partisan observation when compiling ballots and creating additional restrictions for the use of the drop box, CNN previously reported.

The university told Dr Smith that “outside activities which may pose a conflict of interest to the executive branch of the State of Florida create a conflict for the University of Florida,” and provided similar explanations to the Dr McDonald… and Dr Austin, ”the court document reads.

Dr Sharon Austin is an author and expert on “rural African-American political activism” and “African-American political behavior,” she said. page on the University of Florida website, while Dr Michael McDonald studies elections, methodology and has researched voter turnout. Dr Daniel Smith studies how “political institutions affect political behavior across and within American states”.

“We will not back down from this attack on our academic freedoms to speak at our own pace, on matters of great public importance,” McDonald told CNN in a statement.

CNN also contacted Austin and Smith, but did not receive an immediate response.

“The assertion by the governor’s office that the decisions of the University of Florida regarding the involvement of its employees in this litigation involve ‘legislative privilege’ is absurd,” the motion said.

In a statement provided to CNN, a spokesperson for the University of Florida said the university “has a long history of supporting free speech and academic freedom in our faculty, and we will continue to do so. to do”.

“It is important to note that the university has not denied the First Amendment rights or the academic freedom of Professors Dan Smith, Michael McDonald and Sharon Austin. On the contrary, the university has refused requests from these full-time employees to undertake outside paid work that is contrary to the interests of the university as an institution of the State of Florida, ”said the spokesperson. lyrics by Hessy Fernandez.

CNN has contacted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s office for comment, but has not received a response.

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