Florida’s ever-escalating voting wars (see hereand here) have seen two big developments recently. First: Last week, a judge blocked most of Florida’s aggressive new restrictions on how groups can register voters. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle argued in his opinion that the time limits and penalties thrust onto groups like the League of Women Voters, which ultimately caused them to famously shut down their voter registration drive in the state, was unconstitutional:
Together speech and voting are constitutional rights of special significance; they are the rights most protective of all others, joined in this respect by the ability to vindicate one’s rights in a federal court. … [W]hen a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever. And allowing responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives—thus making it easier for citizens to register and vote—promotes democracy.
That decision led the League and Rock the Vote to announce this week that they wereresuming their voter registration drives in the battleground state.
As St. Petersburg League of Women Voters President Darden Rice told The Tampa Bay Times:
We’re going to dust off our clip boards and pick up the forms and get into the business of registering people to vote. Registering citizens to vote is part of our core mission, and we’re excited to get back to work.
But on another voting front — Florida’s decision to flag and possibly purge some 182,000 voters who supposedly aren’t citizens — Gov. Rick Scott (R) is digging in, despite possible legal repercussions. Last week, the Department of Justice instructed Florida to halt a plan using error-prone databases to identify non-citizens on the voting rolls, on the grounds that it violated two federal laws — the National Voter Registration Act and the Voting Rights Act.
As Facing South reported, the federal voter registration law passed in 1993 prohibits states from making major changes to its voter lists within 90 days of a federal election, precisely because legitimate voters could be wrongfully removed and not have enough time to correct the mistake. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prevents certain states from making major voting changes without having them pre-cleared by the Department of Justice. After the DOJ sent its letter [pdf] to Florida, most counties halted the purging process. (Some counties like Palm Beach had already refused to comply because of errors they found in the data, which they said was “not credible.”)