Florida officials appear to be backing away from a controversial law that put new restrictions on voter-registration drives and roused complaints that it discourages participation by African-Americans and other potential voters in this year’s elections. An attorney representing Florida told a federal three-judge panel in Washington on Thursday that the state may withdraw its request for judicial approval of the registration limits, part of a 2011 rewrite of the state’s elections law. The panel is reviewing this and other controversial aspects of the new law passed by the Republican-run Legislature. The state had requested the judicial “pre-clearance” rather than seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice under requirements of the Voting Rights Act.
In Tallahassee last month, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle blocked enforcement of the registration provision, which requires third-party groups to turn in voter registration forms within 48 hours or risk a $1,000-a-day fine. Hinkle called it “harsh and impractical.” The League of Women Voters and other voter-rights groups challenged the law after halting their registration efforts. They resumed them after Hinkle’s ruling.