Florida professors banned from testifying on voter law

The University of Florida denied three professors permission to testify as expert witnesses in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s law severely limiting the ability to vote through a drop box or by mail. The professors specialize in voting rights and election law. University officials said the denied requests were not a violation of the First Amendment but a refusal to allow “full-time employees to undertake outside paid work that is adverse to the university’s interests as a state of Florida institution.” (The New York Times, October 30, 2021, by Michael Wines)

Former university president Michael T. Nietzel, Forbes, October 31, 2021, views the ban as a serious assault on free speech and academic freedom. He writes, “The University of Florida’s decision to muzzle its faculty appears to be an unprecedented case of prior restraint. The idea that a faculty member employed by a public university cannot testify about his or her area of expertise because such testimony – pro bono or otherwise – might be adverse to the state’s case is preposterous. Faculty have been doing it for years.”