GOP War on Voting: Judge blocks Florida voter suppression law

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

A federal judge said on Wednesday that he planned to block provisions of the Florida voter suppression law of Governor Lex Luthor Rick Scott that made it harder for organizations to register voters in the state. Judge to Block Changes in Florida Voter Registration –

Rick_Scott1The measure, part of a broad and contentious 2011 election law in Florida, had a serious impact on third-party voter groups, like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote, which filed the suit along with the Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. The groups asserted that the new requirements were onerous and made volunteers vulnerable to fines and even felony charges.

Voter registration, particularly among Democratic voters, declined significantly in the past year. The Florida Times-Union reported this week that the number of registered Democrats had increased by only 11,365 from July 1, 2011, to Aug. 1, 2012, a sharply lower figure than in the same periods during the past two presidential races. In 2004, nearly 159,000 new Democrats were registered in that period. In 2008, the number was nearly 260,000.

The 2011 Florida election law required groups that registered voters to turn in their completed forms within 48 hours or risk penalties. As a result, several organizations, including the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote, stopped working in the state. Previously, groups had 10 days to submit the forms.

Deirdre Macnab, the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, which suspended its operations for a year, said she was delighted with the ruling.

“It sets an important precedent in Florida and nationally that gives a strong level of protection for third-party registration groups,” Ms. Macnab said. “We have been a historical part of America in reaching out to underserved communities.”

But, she added, the all-volunteer voter registration groups now face an arduous task. The registration deadline for the November election is five weeks away.

Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Federal District Court in Tallahassee said he expected to prohibit the voter registration restrictions once a federal appeals court dismissed the case. The judge had suspended the restrictions on May 31, calling them “harsh and impractical” and “burdensome.” Some voter groups restarted their registration drives after his initial ruling.

Changes to the voter registration process are among several measures in Florida’s election law that are now before the courts. Critics of the law, including groups representing minorities, view it as an attempt to suppress voter registration and turnout, particularly among Democratic voters.

A separate federal lawsuit that challenges the election law under the Voting Rights Act is being brought by the Justice Department.

This month, a federal court ruled that a measure in the law curtailing early voting days could depress voter turnout among blacks. The court barred Florida from carrying out the changes in the five Florida counties that are covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

UPDATE: Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog adds, The Most Important FL Law Which Could Impact Democratic Voter Turnout is Now Permanently Gone:

However, this press release explains: “Civic groups and Florida voters scored a decisive victory today when a federal judge indicated he will permanently remove controversial restrictions on community-based voter registration drives.  Federal Judge Robert L. 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.  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. Judge Hinkle temporarily blocked enforcement of the law in May, saying the restrictions violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law.”

This is a big deal.  Look at the impact such laws may have had on party registrations.

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