2 Strikes for Florida Voting Laws

Blogging the Beltway: In one day, both the state's voter-purging efforts and voter-registration law get blocked.


(The Root) — Two contentious efforts regarding voting in Florida, led by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, suffered major setbacks on Thursday. In a legal one-two punch, both were struck down.

First up: a provision in a state law that requires anyone who registers voters to hand in all registration forms no later than 48 hours after they’re completed. The previous deadline was 10 days, allowing organizations enough time to ensure that forms are filled out correctly.

Under the stricter new law, if a form is handed in after the 48-hour window, the register could face criminal charges and up to $1,000 in fines per application. The penalties have been considered so draconian that the state’s League of Women Voters shut down its registration activities. And since the law took effect last May, 81,471 fewer Floridians have been registered to vote than during the same period before the 2008 election.

On Thursday a federal judge issued an injunction barring the state of Florida from enforcing the 48-hour-deadline provision of its new election law, calling the requirement “harsh and impractical.”

Tallahassee federal Judge Robert Hinkle wrote in his strongly worded ruling (pdf): “The short deadline, coupled with substantial penalties for noncompliance, make voter-registration drives a risky business. If the goal is to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed. But if the goal is to further the state’s legitimate interests without unduly burdening the rights of voters and voter registration organizations, 48 hours is a bad choice.”

A hearing on June 15 will determine how the case against Florida’s voting law will proceed. The state also has 30 days to appeal.

Purging Floridas Voter Purge

Next: Gov. Scott’s initiative to purge voters whom he suspects might be noncitizens from the state’s voter rolls. County elections supervisors were ordered to send letters to 2,700 previously registered residents last month, telling them that they’re ineligible to vote unless they report to the county with proof of their citizenship. Recipients had 30 days to respond or be summarily removed from the voting rolls.

Upping the ante last week, Florida elections officials issued a second list of 53,000 voter names to county officials, calling on them to start the process for another purge.