Federal Court Blocks Florida Law that Targets Voter Registration, Civic Engagement, and Political Speech 

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
July 3, 2023 5:30 pm

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal court today blocked a provision of a new Florida law, SB 7050, which undermines community-based organizations performing voter registration.

The lawsuit was recently filed by voting and immigrants’ rights advocates and specifically focuses on the law’s noncitizen provision, which would impose a $50,000 fine on an organization for each noncitizen person who “collects” or “handles” voter registration forms on the organization’s behalf. The restrictions include lawful permanent residents, many of whom have longtime, close ties to the communities in which they reside.

The lawsuit, which centers on SB 7050’s chilling effect on political speech, civic engagement, and the unconstitutional exclusion of noncitizens from these activities, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Florida, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Dēmos, and Arnold & Porter on behalf of Hispanic Federation, Poder Latinx, and individual clients. The case cites violations of the First and 14th Amendments.

The groups were in court on June 28 seeking a preliminary injunction to immediately block the law as the case is litigated.

Chief Judge Mark E. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida granted the motion late this afternoon, writing: “Tomorrow, Floridians across the state will commemorate our Nation’s birthday. They will endure the heat of the Florida summer to celebrate the Fourth of July with family and friends at barbecues and picnics. They will gather with their communities at public parks for music and fireworks. They will cheer and sweat at parades and block parties. And amid these patriotic festivities, some may feel moved, for the first time, to embrace their solemn privilege as citizens by registering to vote.”

He added, “That’s where Plaintiffs come in. Absent the challenged provisions at issue in these cases, individuals like Ms. Herrera-Lucha and 3PVROs like the Florida NAACP and Hispanic Federation would be engaging with their communities and registering new voters. In doing so, they would embody those democratic ideals that, for nearly two hundred forty-seven years, have made our system the envy of the world. … Ms. Herrera-Lucha, a noncitizen who, herself, lacks the right to vote, has spent years registering and encouraging citizens to exercise that solemn right. She may, at least for now, continue to do so and add more voices to the millions of others singing a more perfect Union into existence.”

The following reactions are from:

Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, who argued the preliminary injunction motion on behalf of the challengers: “The court was right to block this law because it was a clear and brazen attack on civic participation in our democracy. This ruling is an important victory.”

Daniel Tilley, legal director at the ACLU of Florida: “This ruling fortifies the idea that all Floridians have a right to participate in building a stronger democracy through civic engagement. While this is a step in the right direction, our work is not finished. People in our communities, including noncitizens, work tirelessly to assist in voter registration efforts to empower Floridians to vote on issues that impact their daily lives. We applaud the court’s decision, but we must ensure this harmful law is struck down altogether.”

Frankie Miranda, president and CEO of Hispanic Federation: “Today’s ruling confirms what we knew from the very beginning: Florida’s latest voter registration law was unconstitutional and served no other purpose than to silence our communities. This ruling is a win for all Floridians — especially for underrepresented communities who rely on nonpartisan organizations like us to help make their voices heard. We applaud this ruling, and will not rest until everyone’s right to participate in our democracy is protected.”

Lourdes M. Rosado, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF: “LatinoJustice is gratified that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida agreed with us and said that a law that would have made it a crime for noncitizens to assist with voter registration, was motivated by animus and had no rational basis. We will continue to fight against any attempts to suppress or intimidate voters based on their immigration status or national origin.”

Ruling: https://www.aclu.org/documents/ruling-preliminary-injunction-granted-7-3-2023

 

 


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