The state and the opponents of a suspended voter registration law are moving toward a settlement in a lawsuit over the new rules, both sides said Thursday, even as a group of voters is trying to brush aside the state’s legal strategy and pursue an appeal. In a brief scheduling conference Thursday with U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle, who struck down new regulations on third-party voter registration organizations at the end of last month, an attorney for the groups said the two sides were close to striking a deal. “We expect to get something on file with the court shortly memorializing the agreement,” said Farrah Berse, a lawyer representing opponents who had sued to block the law. In an interview later on Thursday, Secretary of State Ken Detzner confirmed that both sides are trying to avoid a longer legal battle over the voter law, passed by the Legislature last year. “I’m optimistic that we’ll probably get a good result and there won’t be an appeal,” Detzner said. “That’s not final, but we’re optimistic.”
In a decision issued May 31, Hinkle struck down a part of the law that require groups like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote to turn in voter registration forms to election officials within 48 hours after they are filled out, down from 10 days under earlier laws. Hinkle also barred the state from requiring volunteers to sign a form that misled voters about the penalties for unknowingly submitting forms with inaccurate information on them. The deadline for an appeal is Monday.
Neither side gave details of the likely settlement, but Berse said it was likely to closely track with Hinkle’s ruling and provide for the state to cover at least some of the plaintiffs’ legal bills in the case. With an appeal from the state unlikely, several voters filed a motion this week allowing them to intervene in the case for the specific purpose of keeping the fight going. Those voters argue that a flawed registration process could lay the groundwork for voter fraud and harm eligible voters.