reported on a new election law in Florida that drastically restricted third-party voter registration efforts. The 2011 law required that completed registration forms be submitted within 48 hours (groups previously had 10 days) and imposed strict fines for each late registration form. This requirement severely hampered the ability of nonprofits to conduct voter outreach, and even forced the League of Women Voters to halt their registration efforts in the state.
But yesterday, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction blocking certain provisions of the law. Judge Hinkle blocked the 48-hour return requirement, calling the deadline "harsh and impractical". The injunction also blocked a provision that would open up volunteers to possible felony charges for registering ineligible voters (even if unknowingly). He noted that "If the goal is to discourage voter registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, this may work."
The timing of the injunction is important because "when a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever." Hopefully this ruling will once again allow Florida's 501(c)(3) nonprofits to safely register their community members ahead of the 2012 election. RSVP for our June 14th webinar for more on nonprofit voter registration.
While much of the law remains intact (including the shortened early voting period), it is not clear yet if the state will appeal. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is still conducting a separate federal lawsuit challenging the law under the Voting Rights Act.