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Latino voter registration groups sue over Florida's new elections law

 The federal courthouse in downtown Tallahassee, FL
Craig Moore
/
WFSU Public Media
The federal courthouse in downtown Tallahassee, FL

Immigrant rights groups are suing to block Florida’s new restrictions on voter registration organizations.

“All Floridians — including non-citizens — have the right to participate in the work of building a better democracy through civic engagement," wrote Estee M. Konor, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in a press release announcing the lawsuit. "This law is a brazen attempt to shut down that powerful work by preventing non-citizens from assisting with voter registration efforts in their communities."

Voter registration groups that primarily serve Hispanic and Latino communities are the main plaintiffs in Hispanic Federation v. Byrd. They claim the new law — SB 7050 — will significantly reduce the number of voters they’re able to register. They're seeking a preliminary injunction to block the law from taking effect on July 1.

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U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee will hear arguments in the case on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

The case focuses on a specific provision of the law that prevents immigrants from getting involved in the political process. Under the new law, voter registration groups could face $50,000 in fines for every noncitizen volunteer who "handles" or "collects" voter registration forms. Plaintiffs argue that violates the 1st and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, along with federal civil rights statutes.

The new elections law will also shorten the number of days that voter registration groups have to return completed applications to elections offices from 14 to 10. It will also increase fines for each late application by 50 times as much. Groups could accrue up to $250,000 in fines over the course of a year.

Nearly 2,000 active voter registration groups are listed in the state Division of Elections' online database. They’re typically advocacy organizations, churches and social clubs that help minority and low-income voters and seniors.
Copyright 2023 WFSU.

Valerie Crowder is a freelance reporter based in Panama City, Florida. Before moving to Florida, she covered politics and education for Public Radio East in New Bern, North Carolina. While at PRE, she was also a fill-in host during All Things Considered. She got her start in public radio at WAER-FM in Syracuse, New York, where she was a part-time reporter, assistant producer and host. She has a B.A. in newspaper online journalism and political science from Syracuse University. When she’s not reporting the news, she enjoys reading classic fiction and thrillers, hiking with members of the Florida Trail Association and doing yoga.
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