Federal Trial Challenging Florida Law that Targets Voter Registration, Civic Engagement, and Political Speech Begins

Civil Rights and Latinx-led organizations are challenging a provision in SB 7050 that prohibits noncitizens from collecting or handling voter registration forms

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
April 1, 2024 5:00 pm

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Tallahassee, Florida – With the official proceedings of the Hispanic Federation v. Byrd trial beginning today, representatives from the plaintiff organizations and legal organizations arguing the case – including Hispanic Federation, LatinoJustice PRLDEF,

ACLU, and Poder Latinx – hosted a press conference to preview the status of the trial, and how the noncitizen provision is an infringement of the organization’s first amendment right.

A recording of the press conference can be found here, and statements from plaintiff and legal organizations can be found below.

Since SB 7050 was proposed, we have been clear that the noncitizen provision is both discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Hispanic Federation v Byrd is a clear reminder that sometimes unconstitutional laws are passed and it’s up to organizations like ours to remain vigilant and challenge these illegal laws. Since the beginning, we have said that the noncitizen provision in SB 7050 is both discriminatory and unconstitutional, and so far the court has agreed with us every step of the way. We are committed to moving forward with this trial with the hopes of ensuring that Floridians will have fair access in registering to vote.” said Frankie Miranda, president and CEO of Hispanic Federation.

“SB 7050 severely limits our capability to interact and engage with the community on a meaningful level. Poder Latinx is an organization dedicated to fostering a vibrant, participatory democracy, and being obstructed from encouraging eligible voters to register and exercise their right to vote is contrary to our core mission, because democracy thrives on participation, inclusion and the ability of every voice to be heard” expressed Carolina Wassmer, Florida state program director at Poder Latinx.

“Helping citizens to register to vote is protected speech—pure and simple. This law severely limits our clients’ efforts to register voters in underserved communities. We are here today to once and for all block SB 7050 and protect our clients’ ability of to be part of the democratic process—in their own words and on their own terms,” said Victoria Ochoa, Cozen Family Voting Rights Fellow at the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

“We proudly stand with our courageous clients who are committed to defending the political voice of the Latino community,” said Miranda Galindo with LatinoJustice PRLDEF. SB 7050 unconstitutionally undermines the ability of Latino civic organizations to convey their message that all eligible voters should participate in the democratic process. LatinoJustice has been defending, protecting, and expanding the rights of the Latino electorate for half a century and we will not stop challenging illegal barriers that disenfranchise our gente .”

“Everyone, including non-citizens, has a vital role in our democracy. Our clients are committed to building a vibrant, inclusive, and just democracy where all people can shape their futures. SB7050 places an extraordinary burden on our clients’ efforts to register voters—especially in immigrant communities—and is a barrier to full political participation for eligible voters. We should encourage, not obstruct, increased civic engagement and community outreach,” said Roni Druks, Senior Counsel at Dēmos.

In May 2023, the coalition filed a lawsuit challenging SB 7050 for its chilling effect on political speech, civic engagement, and the unconstitutional exclusion of noncitizens from voter turnout activities. In July, a judge issued a preliminary injunction, blocking some portions of SB 7050 as the case is litigated.

However, in March 2024 a federal district court issued a summary judgment in favor of voting and immigrants’ rights advocates challenging Florida 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. SB 7050 has been a subject of controversy due to its infringement on free speech rights as well as the rights of noncitizens to encourage eligible voters to register. Yet SB7050s still unconstitutionally restricts civic organizations’ ability to convey their message that all eligible voters should participate in the democratic process.

Hispanic Federation v. Byrd started Monday, April 1, in the U.S. District Courthouse for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee, FL. The court convenes at 9 a.m. ET, and the trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

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