Hispanic Federation v. Byrd

Location: Florida
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: March 15, 2024

What's at Stake

Of all 50 states, Florida ranks 47th in percentage of its eligible citizens who are registered to vote. Yet, in May 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 7050, which bars any noncitizen — regardless of lawful residence status — from working or volunteering for third-party voter registration organizations (3PVROs) who register eligible Floridians to vote. In practice, the law imposes a $50,000 fine on a 3PVRO for each noncitizen who engages in voter-registration work on a 3PVRO’s behalf. This law would silence and put out of business countless community-based groups that rely on both citizens and noncitizens to help eligible voters in their communities participate in their democracy.

Immediately after SB 7050 passed, ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, Demos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP filed suit in federal court to block the law on behalf of plaintiffs Hispanic Federation, Poder Latinx, and three individual non-citizens who register voters for Florida 3PVROs.

The lawsuit argues that SB 7050’s non-citizen ban restricts plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to free speech, by preventing them from communicating their belief that every eligible voter should participate in shaping their government. It argues that SB 7050 would harm Hispanic Federation and Poder Latinx because it would effectively halt their operations by decimating their voter-registration workforce. In addition, the suit charges that SB 7050 violates the First Amendment because it is unlawfully broad, as well as the Due Process Clause because it is too vague. It also alleges that SB 7050 impedes plaintiffs’ right to contract for discriminatory reasons. And lastly, the suit argues that SB 7050 enacts an unconstitutional alienage-based restriction in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

In July 2023, the federal court agreed with plaintiffs’ equal-protection claim and preliminarily enjoined SB 7050’s non-citizen ban provision before it took effect. Doing so, Chief Judge Mark Walker explained that the law would prevent the plaintiffs from “embody[ing] those democratic ideals that, for nearly two hundred forty-seven years, have made our system the envy of the world.”

The state appealed the trial court’s decision, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard argument on the emergency injunction in January 2024. A full trial on the merits was held in April 2024.

UPDATE: On May 15, 2024, Chief Judge Mark Walker entered final judgment for the Hispanic Federation Plaintiffs, finding that the Citizenship Requirement is facially unconstitutional because it violates non-citizens' right to equal protection under law.

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