A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Thursday [official website] blocked [opinion, PDF] part of a new Florida election law that plaintiffs claim restrict voter registration efforts. Judge Robert Hinkle struck down a provision of Florida's election law that required any group that conducts a voter registration drive to turn in registration forms within 48 hours of collecting them or else face a $1,000 per day fine, saying that this requirement was "harsh and impractical." Hinkle declared that enjoining parts of the Florida election law was necessary to protect the voting rights of the plaintiffs in the case, which included the League of Women Voters of Florida [advocacy website]:
The plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm if an injunction is not issued, first because the denial of a right of this magnitude under circumstances like these almost always inflicts irreparable harm, and second because when a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever. If an injunction does not issue now, there will be no way to remedy the plaintiffs' continuing loss through relief granted later in this litigation.In his ruling, Hinkle indicated that the plaintiffs will likely be able to argue successfully that the Florida election law unconstitutionally violates their voting rights.
Changes to state voting laws have been the subject of contentious debate recently. On Wednesday the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota [official website] filed a petition [JURIST report] seeking to eliminate a proposed ballot initiative to require citizens to present photo identification in order to vote. Last month Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed Virginia's new voter ID legislation, which will require voters to show one form of acceptable identification [JURIST report] in order to cast a vote. In March Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed a bill requiring voters to present photo identification [JURIST report] in the upcoming November election. Also in March, a Wisconsin judge ruled unconstitutional [JURIST report] the state's voter ID law requiring a voter to display photo ID when entering a polling place to vote. In February, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson filed suit against the US Department of Justice over its ruling that barred South Carolina [JURIST reports] from enforcing its voter ID law. In November, Mississippi voters approved a ballot measure [JURIST report] to implement a voter ID law.