TALLAHASSEE – A federal judge refused to block two parts of a new Florida election law that placed restrictions on voter registration groups, while the state was appealing a previous ruling that said other changes to the law were likely unconstitutional.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Tuesday denied the League of Women Voters of Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction against two parts of the law that the group claims violate First Amendment rights.
One of these parts requires representatives of voter registration groups to provide receipts to people who have signed up to vote. Another section prohibits people convicted of serious crimes from “collecting or processing” voter registration applications.
In the 18-page decision, Walker wrote that the League of Women Voters had not demonstrated the legal “capacity” to obtain a preliminary injunction. As an example, he wrote that the League of Women Voters did not demonstrate that its members or volunteers would be affected by a ban on the processing or collection of forms by criminals.
“Regarding the status of the association, plaintiffs allege that their members have been harmed because they will be able to associate with fewer members and volunteers convicted of felonies,” Walker wrote. “The problem with this argument is that the League’s plaintiffs did not provide evidence that any members or volunteers with qualifying convictions planned to participate in voter registration work after July 1, 2023 (when the law went into effect), but the challenged provision .”
Walker’s decision differed markedly from the July 3 ruling in which he issued a preliminary injunction against two other changes to the law. These changes will prevent non-U.S. citizens from collecting or processing voter registration applications and will criminalize the storage of voter personal information by voter registration team workers.
“Of course Florida can regulate elections, including the voter registration process,” Walker wrote in a July 3 ruling. “Here, however, the contested provisions illustrate what Florida has struggled with in recent years, namely governance within the limits set by the United States Constitution. the judiciary acts as a firewall. The free state of Florida simply cannot go beyond the United States Constitution.”
Attorneys for Secretary of State Cord Byrd and Attorney General Ashley Moody filed the notice Tuesday, the first step in appealing the July 3 decision to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. As usual, the notice of appeal did not detail the arguments the state would bring to the Atlanta Court of Appeal.
The law (SB 7050), which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in May, made a number of changes to Florida’s electoral system, especially focusing on “outside” voter registration groups. DeSantis and other state Republican leaders, in particular, have argued that the law is necessary to keep the election safe.
But voter registration groups, including the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and the Latino Federations, quickly filed lawsuits challenging the law’s constitutionality and seeking preliminary injunctions. They said third-party registration groups play an important role in registering Hispanic and black voters.
The July 3 injunction came out of two lawsuits, and Tuesday’s ruling came in a separate lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters.
In challenging part of the law on receipt requirements, the League of Women Voters pointed to issues such as the requirement for group members or volunteers to provide identifying information on receipts. The lawsuit states that it “directly regulates their performances and prevents volunteers from participating without sufficient justification.”
But Walker wrote that the League of Women Voters had not shown legal standing to block that part of the law.
“They (Plaintiffs) have demonstrated that their members are afraid to participate in voter registration efforts because their members believe it could put them at risk from both individuals and the government now that they must give their full names. in receipts issued to the voters they register,” Walker wrote. “These subjective concerns, however, depend on assumptions that are not supported by the evidence of the League plaintiffs.”
The League of Women Voters and the Campaign Law Center, which represents the group, released a statement on Wednesday saying “Florida should encourage, not punish, civic people who help voters make their voices heard.”
“We are disappointed with this decision, which will severely limit the ability of non-partisan civic engagement groups such as the LWVFL (League of Women Voters of Florida) to engage with and educate voters,” the statement said. “In the past, the League has relied on criminally convicted volunteers to help recruit other criminally convicted individuals to learn about their eligibility to register to vote. Registration.”