On Wednesday, a federal judge in Florida issued an order to permanently remove a new restriction that would have made it harder for voter registration groups to register new voters.
The Florida Times-Union reported earlier this week that voter registration groups saw a dramatic drop in new voters in the wake of the new strictures. The Times-Union investigation also found “the number of new Democrats registering in Florida has all but disappeared.”
The League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote, and the Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (PIRG) filed a lawsuit in December challenging the restrictions. Federal Judge Robert L. Hinkle temporarily blocked enforcement of the law in May, saying the restrictions violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law.
Judge Hinkle issued an order stating the court will grant the group’s request to permanently remove the restrictions once he receives confirmation that a federal appeals court has dismissed the case.
“We reported back in June how difficult it was for people like Rev. LaVon Bracy and civil rights organizations to register voters in Florida under the HB 1355 law, said Colorlines.com’s election rights reporter Brentin Mock. “By permanently striking away the onerous restrictions placed on voter registration, the courts have allowed democracy to flourish and for all people to participate in the democratic process without being penalized. We owe it to those who fought for these voting rights — people like Rev. LaVon Bracy and her family — and those who died for those rights to make sure no law is created that obstructs our access to voter registration.”
The groups who filed the lawsuit are celebrating today’s decision.
“Florida’s anti-voter law created impassable roadblocks for our volunteers, who have been bringing fellow Floridians into our democratic process for over 72 years,” explained Deirdre Macnab, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “Thanks to today’s ruling, we can finally put these roadblocks behind us and concentrate on getting Floridians registered to vote. We are grateful the court recognized that the Constitution does not tolerate these types of barriers to civic participation and voter registration.”
“Rock the Vote is thrilled that the most restrictive parts of Florida’s new law will be blocked. We’re now focused on the future: helping tens of thousands of young Florida residents register to vote before the November election,” stated Heather Smith, President of Rock the Vote. “Today’s order means we will be out in Florida making sure that young people have a voice in their communities. It’s a victory for them, and for our democracy.”
Both the civic groups and the state of Florida have agreed not to appeal the ruling. The parties separately signed a settlement that ends the case once the court granted this motion and awards the civic groups’ their attorneys’ costs.