ORLANDO, Fla. — Three nonpartisan voter registration groups filed lawsuits against Florida’s government Wednesday and Thursday, accusing state lawmakers of violating their constitutional rights.
Florida’s new elections law, SB 7050, was officially signed by the governor on Wednesday, minutes before the first lawsuit was filed. While it did many things, including allowing DeSantis to run for president without resigning from office, the lawsuits centered on the restrictions placed on the groups’ ability to register new voters.
The law cut the number of days these groups have to turn in registration forms from 14 days to 10, and also makes them turn forms in to the county elections office where each voter is eligible. Fines for mistakes were increased from $50,000 each year to $250,000. Certain people, including noncitizens and some felons, won’t be allowed to handle any forms.
The law also requires the groups to shred any personal information about the voters they sign up and provide them with “receipts.”
“These changes have nothing to do with safety, security, and everything to do with just creating burdens and making it harder to register people to vote,” Rep. Anna Eskamani (D), who runs a registration group focused on college students, said, adding that many of her volunteer-led operations may have to be shut down.
Central Florida has had issues with third-party groups before, most notably a problem in Lake County in 2020 where voters’ registrations were flipped from Democrat to Republican without their permission ahead of the primary.
“Deal with the people who are making mistakes, you don’t demonize everybody,” League of Women Voters Florida President Cecile Scoon said.
Scoon called the law “terrifying,” and said her group’s mission was to increase participation in the civic process by people of all stripes.
Eskamani conceded a registration free-for-all wasn’t beneficial. Steps like requiring registration with the state and imposing a deadline for forms to be turned in were fine, she said, as well as giving a voter a receipt – if it meant something.
“The irony about this bill is that we do have to provide voters with the receipts when they register to vote, but that receipt doesn’t mean anything,” she said. “You can’t bring that receipt to the poll location, say ‘I got registered, can I still be able to vote today?’”
Along with the League of Women Voters, the other lawsuits were filed by the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation. The groups noted that minority voters were four or five times more likely to register through a nonpartisan group than white voters.
Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office, which was named as a defendant in the lawsuits, said it hadn’t been served and couldn’t comment.
©2023 Cox Media Group