Women's Voter Groups to Resume Registering Voters
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Two voting rights groups said Wednesday they are ready to resume their interrupted registration efforts just days after winning a federal injunction against a Florida law they believe was aimed at suppressing minority and youth votes.
Last week U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle temporarily blocked parts of Florida's new election law that place restrictions on voter registration drives. He said the provisions signed into law last year by Gov. Rick Scott made voter registration drives "risky business," and said the practice is protected under the First Amendment.
Among other things, the law had required groups to submit registration forms they collected within 48 hours or face fines of $50 per application, capped at $1,000 per year. Hinkle's ruling means registration organizers once again will have 10 days to submit voter forms.
Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters' Florida chapter, said Wednesday that winning the injunction was the first step in eliminating barriers to Florida voters' access to the polls.
"Justice will not allow these 'block the vote' laws," Macnab said. "We have a critical national election before us. We want to make sure that every eligible Floridian is heard."
Although Hinkle struck down most of the key provisions in the law, others still remain. One of them requires weekly reporting of the names of any volunteers that collect new registration forms.
Rock the Vote partnered with the League of Women Voters to win the federal injunction. Its president, Heather Smith, said her group registered 100,000 voters in Florida in 2008 and still should be able to surpass that total this year. She said her group will make sure all volunteers are trained on the law's provisions going forward, because of the rules that remain.
Smith acknowledged, however, that the legal fight cost them some valuable time registering first-time voters with most Florida high schools already out for the summer. But they were able to distribute some last-minute information.
She said their efforts on college campuses which normally begin in the summer and fall shouldn't be affected much.
There is also a continued effort at the federal level by Scott's administration to purge "non-citizen voters" from the rolls in Florida. That continues despite a letter last week from the U.S. Justice Department demanding a halt to the purge because the process appeared to violate federal law.
Democrats and voting rights activists have called it an attempt by ruling Republicans to suppress voter turnout.
Smith said some language requiring identification cards to vote at polls has been replicated in the wording of voter ID laws in around 30 states.
"I can't speculate as to their intentions, but I can tell you that the analysis that I have read about shows that it is once again particularly impacting minorities in our state in a very, very major way," Macnab said.
Macnab said the league has joined with other groups in another lawsuit to fight purging and restrictions on early voting and voting on the Sunday before election day, which she said is also aimed at minority voter groups.
"There really was no reason at all to remove what is a very popular program and has grown exponentially in our state," Macnab said. "It's just crazy to think our Legislature would cut those days in half and eliminate the most popular day."
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