Voting-rights groups that virtually stopped registering voters in Florida for a year as they challenged the state’s new restrictions on elections now are scrambling to get people there registered for the November 6 election. The effort in Florida – a large, politically divided state that is crucial in the nationwide race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney – comes two weeks after a federal judge rejected strict limits on voter-registration drives that have led to a big drop in Floridians signing up to vote. The Florida law was so limiting that groups such as Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters, which have helped to register millions of voters in the last two presidential elections, essentially halted their registration drives in the state. Now, with the restrictions lifted and Florida’s October 9 deadline for registering to vote in the November election looming, such groups are fanning out across the state to find new voters.
Massive voter drives across the country in 2008 helped put millions of people aged 18 to 29 on voting rolls. That age group – which makes up roughly one-quarter of the U.S. electorate – voted 2-to-1 for Democratic President Barack Obama then, helping to propel him to victory over Republican John McCain. This year, campaigns and civic groups have faced challenges in signing up voters because of laws passed largely by Republicans who took control of legislatures in 20 states after the 2010 elections.