Thursday, August 30, 2012

Court Permanently Enjoins Enforcement of Florida's Third Party Voter Registration Laws

Judge Robert L. Hinkle (N.D. Fla.) permanently enjoined Florida officials from enforcing certain state third party voter registration laws after the state issued new emergency regulations to comply with Judge Hinkle's earlier preliminary injunction.  The ruling ends the legal challenge to the laws and their enforcement in favor of the plaintiffs; it also means that Florida's new (and less harsh, more forgiving) emergency regulations will now govern third party voter registration efforts--for the 40 days until the October 9 deadline in Florida for voter registration for the general election.  (Thanks to the Brennan Center for links to the docs.  The Brennan Center case page is here.)

The case, League of Women Voters of Florida v. Detzner, involved the plaintiffs' constitutional and statutory challenges to Florida's excessively restrictive third party voter registration laws enacted in 2011.  Those laws erected major barriers to third party voter registration efforts, stymieing those efforts in this 2012 battleground state.

Judge Hinkle issued a preliminary injunction back in May, writing that there was no substantial state interest in certain of the law's requirements, including these: 

  • that registration organizations turn in voter-registration applications within 48 hours after completion;
  • that registration organizations must file the names of every officer and employee and volunteer who is a "registration agent," including those who merely solicit applications;
  • that each registration agent file a sworn statement that he or she will obey registration laws, on a form that incorrectly suggests that a registration agent commits a felony and could be imprisoned for five years for sending in a voter-registration application that includes false information;
  • that registration organizations must account for all registration forms and file certain onerous reports.

In response, the state issued new emergency regulations for third party voter registration organizations.  After the plaintiffs agreed that the new regs were consistent with Judge Hinkle's injunction, the parties filed a joint motion for a permanent injunction against enforcement of the old laws.  Judge Hinkle granted that injunction yesterday.

(Judge Hinkle styled his ruling as "indicative," because the state's appeal of his preliminary injunction is still pending at the Eleventh Circuit.  That appeal will die, leaving in place the permanent injunction against enforcement of the old laws and the state's new emergency regs.)

SDS

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