The University of Florida has barred three of its faculty members from testifying as experts in a lawsuit challenging the Voting Restrictions Act, passed by Ron DeSantis, for fear of conflict with the Republican governor’s administration, according to a report. Washington Post Sunday.
The school said Saturday that it would be “against the interests of the university, the state institution of Florida,” if professors Dan Smith, chair of the political science department, Michael MacDonald and Sharon Austin were allowed to offer their expertise to the plaintiffs from trial.
The decision to ban professors from being expert witnesses in an open trial is unusual. In a letter to the university, lawyers representing the professors said faculty members have the right to free speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, though their observations may “make the university’s relationship with funding sources more difficult,” the paper said. .
Paul Donnelly, a lawyer representing Smith, MacDonald and Austin, said the academics meanwhile intend to sue the university if it does not change its position.
Last May, Governor DeSantis enacted a voting bill that limits access to mail-in voting and makes voter identification more stringent.
The law also prohibits everyone, except election officials, from providing food or water to waiting voters.
According to activists for access to democracy, the law, which was adopted by the Florida leader in May, will hinder the voting of ethnic minorities and make it more difficult.