Voting rights activists got another victory, this time in Florida, where a federal judge said he would permanently remove harsh restrictions on third-party voter registration groups. Those restrictions, passed as part of a massive electoral overhaul and spearheaded by Gov. Rick Scott (R) had hamstrung non-partisan groups like the League of Women Voters from registering voters leading up to the November election.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle said he would grant a motion to permanently remove the restrictions as soon as he receives confirmation that a federal appellate court had dismissed the case.
In December the League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote, and the Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund sued to block the restrictions. The Department of Justice also opposed the restrictions and had filed their own lawsuit challenging them. “Florida’s anti-voter law created impassable roadblocks for our volunteers, who have been bringing fellow Floridians into our democratic process for over 72 years,” said Deirdre Macnab, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “Thanks to today’s ruling, we can finally put these roadblocks behind us and concentrate on getting Floridians registered to vote. We are grateful the court recognized that the Constitution does not tolerate these types of barriers to civic participation and voter registration.”
The non-partisan Brennan Center issued a press release applauding the decision.“This order is a decisive victory for Florida voters,” said Lee Rowland, counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, one of the attorneys who argued the case for the Plaintiffs. “The Florida legislature has tried repeatedly to stifle access to voter registration opportunities, and once again a federal court has stopped them in their tracks. We are thrilled that voter registration groups can now get back to what they do best — expanding our democracy.”
Rarely these days are the federal courts seen as a safe harbor for individuals aggrieved by state action, but recently in the context of voting rights, they have been. This is a big win for any citizen that believes elected officials should be forced to conduct their affairs in a fair and transparent fashion, especially when it comes to restricting essential civic rights like voting.
Photo from JasonLagiene via flickr.