Today, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle blocked portions of Florida’s year-old voter suppression law, HB 1355. He especially took issue with the “harsh and impractical” requirement that voter-registration forms be turned in within 48 hours of completion. The provision would make it impossible to mail in registrations, since there is no guarantee that the Postal Service would deliver them within the deadline. The decision declares that the deadline serves little, if any, legitimate interest of the state.
The judge also disputed the use of a form, adopted by the Division of Elections, that registration agents would be required to sign. Basically, those agents are volunteers with voter-registration groups. The form implies that the volunteers could be charged with felonies if applications containing false information were submitted, whether the volunteers knew the information was false or not. “This is not the law; the form is just wrong,” writes Hinkle. “Requiring a volunteer not only to sign such a statement, but to swear to it, could have no purpose other than to discourage voluntary participation in legitimate, indeed constitutionally protected, activities.”
The law was opposed by groups like Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters, who had to suspend their registration drives when it was passed. Now, they’re ready to get back to work—as soon as they review the ruling. “We just want to make 100 percent sure that they [volunteers] are not at any risk doing this very important volunteer activity,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.
Governor Rick Scott is also reviewing—his options. The state has 30 days to appeal the ruling. Supporters of the bill, like its Republican sponsor, Rep. Dennis Baxley, are trying to shrug off the injunction, asserting that the affected provisions aren’t important. However, no decision has been made on their next step.