Ryan Holeywell is a staff writer at GOVERNING.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A federal judge this week dismissed controversial parts of a new Florida law that critics said was making it difficult for independent organizations to register voters.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle had issued a temporary injuction of the new rules back in May, but this week, he made that injunction permanent.
The law required voter registration organizations to submit paperwork from new voters within 48 hours of collecting it -- a drastic reduction from the 10-day window they had in the past.
Last year, three organizations -- the League of Women Voters for Florida, Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and Rock the Vote -- sued the state over the law change, which they said was so onerous it forced them to stop most of their voter registration efforts in the Sunshine State.
Deirdre Macnab, president of the Florida chapter of the League of Women Voters, called the legislation “a voter suppression effort” in an interview with Governing last year.
“Right now, this law is making it harder for people to register, and in some cases impossible for us to do our work,” Rock the Vote President Heather Smith told Governing after filing suit.
Hinkle had previously written that the state "has little if any legitimate interest" in drastically shortening the window for submitting voter registration forms to 48 hours.
"Allowing responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives -- thus making it easier for citizens to register and vote -- promotes democracy," Hinkle wrote.
Florida state Rep. Dennis Baxley, author of the elections law, which also shortens the length of the early voting period, has said it’s designed to prevent voter fraud and ensure the credibility of elections. Sen. Michael Bennett, another supporter of the law, drew the ire of voting rights activists last year when he reportedly called voting a “privilege” and rhetorically asked, “Why should we make it easier?”
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