Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Voter registration groups sue over new Florida election law

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's new election law attracted more legal attention Thursday with a lawsuit from a trio of civic groups that contend the new rules are too burdensome on their voter registration efforts.

The groups — League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote and Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund — are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that asks a federal court in Tallahassee to block the registration restrictions in the elections overhaul, which is in effect in 62 of 67 counties.

Attorneys argue the law is unconstitutional and violates the "motor voter" law by imposing burdensome regulations on volunteers and steep penalties for mistakes, such as not turning in voter registration applications within 48 hours. The window used to be 10 days.

The League of Women Voters, which has registered voters in Florida since 1972, suspended its efforts in May when Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill, HB 1355, into law. Washington-based Rock the Vote, which seeks to register people ages 18 to 29 across the country, also will suspend registration efforts in Florida in 2012. The group registered nearly 90,000 voters in 2008, it said.

"It's really huge and really tragic," said Heather Smith, Rock the Vote president.

The groups also oppose a change that requires volunteers become registration agents within their organizations. Volunteers must sign an oath warning of prison time and fines, said Deirdre Macnab, League of Women Voters of Florida president.

"You'd really have to be crazy to sign a form like that in order to do one hour of volunteer work," she said.

The sponsor of the overhaul, Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, shrugged off the groups' assertion that the law is burdensome.

"When you take voters' information from them, we need accountability for who has that information and what they're doing with it," he said. "They're simply going to be accountable for turning it in timely."

The lawsuit names as defendants Secretary of State Kurt Browning, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Division of Elections director Gisela Salas. The groups' legal team includes the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Brennan Center for Justice of New York University law school.

The Republican Legislature said it passed the measure to combat voter fraud. Opponents, including Democrats and voter advocacy groups, say Republicans engineered the law to reduce voter turnout in 2012, especially among African-Americans and college students.

Thursday's lawsuit comes days after a major speech by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who warned his agency is "examining a number of changes that Florida has made to its electoral process, including changes governing third-party voter registration organizations."

A pending federal court review will force Florida to hold its presidential primary in January under two separate sets of election laws: 62 counties under the new law, and five counties, including Hillsborough and Monroe, under the old one. The latter counties need federal clearance of four of the law's most controversial provisions, including the tightened window for turning in new registrations, to ensure they protect the rights of minorities.

Also Thursday, Browning's office announced a campaign to register school districts as third-party voter registration organizations, which would allow students and teachers to sign up as registration agents in their district. That way, districts, and not teachers, would be liable for penalties or fines.

Browning introduced the exception for teachers following news of teachers in Volusia and Santa Rosa counties collecting registrations from students but failing to turn them in within the new two-day limit.

Voter registration groups sue over new Florida election law 12/15/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 15, 2011 11:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up

    Blogs

    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards

    Business

    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

]

  3. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say

    Crime

    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.