Voting rights groups sue Florida over elections lawby Dara Kam | December 15th, 2011
A coalition of groups – including the League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote and the ACLU - filed a federal lawsuit today against the state over an election law overhaul now being reviewed by a separate federal court in Washington.
The groups are challenging the provision in the law that they say makes it more difficult for groups to conduct voter registration drives.
The lawsuit argues that the new law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott this spring, is an unconstitutional restriction on the rights of speech and association, is confusing and violates the National Voter Registration Act.
After more than 70 years helping to register voters in the state, the League of Women Voters of Florida quit its voter registration efforts after the law went into effect in May. The lawsuit argues that the league dropped its efforts out of “fear they will be unable to comply with the laws myriad requirements and cannot afford to risk incurring large fines or enduring the reputational harms that would result from even an innocent violation.”
The Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, also part of the lawsuit, argues that the new law will make it more expensive for them to register college students to vote. Rock The Vote, a national group that targets voters between the ages of 18 and 29, said it has called off registration drives in Florida because it lacks the resources the new law requires.
The lawsuit also argues that the new law disproportionately affects low-income and minority voters, who tend to sign up to vote through registration drives more than other groups. Critics of the law, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, say Florida’s law, one of 14 across the nation passed by GOP-dominated legislatures and governors this year, is designed to make it harder for low-income, minority and college student voters to register and cast their ballots.
A federal judge in Miami threw out a separate challenge on the law in October, saying it was too early to see whether the new law would be harmful. The ACLU was trying in that case to keep the law from going into effect statewide until it received federal approval for five counties requiring “preclearance” under the Voting Rights Act.