Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Politics

Judge strikes down part of Florida's election laws

TALLAHASSEE — A federal judge on Thursday struck down a key part of Florida's recently revamped election laws, saying the Legislature's restrictions have made it "risky business" for third-party groups to register new voters.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle told the state it cannot require groups to submit voter registration forms within 48 hours or face $1,000 fines. Nor can the state force those groups to disclose names of volunteers who don't collect the forms, Hinkle ruled.

"The short deadline, coupled with substantial penalties for non-compliance, make voter registration drives a risky business," Hinkle wrote. "If the goal is to discourage voter registration drives and thus make it harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed."

Hinkle's ruling came on the same day the Department of Justice told Florida to cease its search for noncitizen voters.

Hinkle said voter registration activity is protected speech under the First Amendment. His injunction means that groups will have 10 days to submit voter forms, as they did before the law was changed.

The 48-hour requirement is in effect in 62 of Florida's 67 counties, but it remains suspended in five others. That's because any changes in voting laws in those counties must be pre-cleared either by the U.S. Justice Department or a panel of three federal judges in Washington.

The state opted for a three-judge panel, which must weigh Hinkle's decision as it decides whether to pre-clear the 48-hour provision in those five counties: Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry.

The judge's decision is a defeat for the Republican-controlled Legislature that enacted the new restrictions, and Gov. Rick Scott, who signed them into law in 2011. It's a victory for three grass roots groups that brought the lawsuit: Rock the Vote, the Florida Public Interest Group Education Fund and the League of Women Voters of Florida, which suspended all voter registration efforts after the law took effect.

"We are really delighted," said Deirdre MacNab, president of the League of Women Voters. "It knocks out the poor parts of an unreasonable and unconstitutional law. Our volunteers are eager to get back to work."

Those groups and Democrats have accused Republicans of a systematic effort to make it harder for groups to register new voters in Florida in a crucial presidential election year.

The Scott administration said it was pleased with the decision because Hinkle upheld its accountability provisions, which include requirements for groups to register with the state and to disclose which groups signed up which voters.

But Hinkle was critical of the way the state went about enacting administrative rules and said a new state form that warns registration agents that it is a felony to submit false information — even if the agent doesn't know it is false — "is just wrong."

Times staff writer Alexandra Zayas contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Seniors support ‘grandchildren’ with gun-control rally in Sun City Center

Seniors support ‘grandchildren’ with gun-control rally in Sun City Center

SUN CITY CENTER — Millions of women marched on Washington. Thousands of teenagers rallied in Tallahassee and Tampa Bay.And in Sun City Center, nearly 150 seniors held a demonstration for gun control on April 21, offering a simple but poignant message...
Published: 04/25/18

Sean Hannity, a Trump defender, under scrutiny for real estate deals

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)ATLANTA — On his Fox News program last summer, Sean Hannity effused praise for his guest, U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson. "I know you have done a good job," Hannity said. "You are a good man."Carson’s presence gav...
Published: 04/23/18
Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

With the third largest Cuban American population, Cuba’s culture is celebrated throughout the Tampa Bay area and in a diversity of ways.Flags hang in homes, fashion is worn, music performed, food served.But be wary of honoring that heritage by puttin...
Published: 04/23/18
Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

WEST PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn’t expect Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and fixer, to "flip" as the government investigates Cohen’s business dealings. Trump, in a series of tweets fired from Florida o...
Published: 04/21/18

Vive la France: Trump hosts glitzy White House state dinner

WASHINGTON — Now it’s President Donald Trump’s turn to pull off the ultimate charm offensive. Wined and dined on multiple state visits during his tour of Asia last year, Trump is paying it forward and celebrating nearly 250 years of U.S.-French relat...
Published: 04/21/18
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Published: 04/21/18
Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

WASHINGTON — Gov. Rick Scott’s first policy idea as a U.S. Senate candidate won’t happen and most of his fellow Republicans don’t support it.But it’s a surefire applause line at political rallies.Scott wants term limits for members of Congress: 12 ye...
Published: 04/23/18
Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is "very upset and disappointed" by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe’s lawyer said Friday. "Andy has at all ...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

The one thing you can say for sure about electing a mayor in Tampa is you can’t really say anything for sure.Historical proof: A couple of elections ago, Harvard-educated hometown-boy-gone-to-Washington Frank Sanchez was going to be our next mayor, h...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Published: 04/20/18