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Federal judge partially blocks Florida voter registration law

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] on Tuesday blocked [order, PDF] Florida from implementing a portion of its controversial voting law [HB 1355 materials] that shortens the deadlines for groups conducting voter registration drives to submit registration forms to the state. The Florida law imposes a $1000 per day fine on any group that fails to provide voter registration forms to state election officials within 48 hours of voters filling them out. The 48-hour time window was shortened from a previous window of 10 days to submit the forms. Reaction to Judge Robert Hinkle's decision to enjoin the law was mixed. Lee Rowland, a lawyer for the Brennan Center for Justice [advocacy website], applauded the injunction [Reuters report] as a victory against voter suppression. Proponents of the voter registration restrictions contend that the restrictions are necessary to prevent voter fraud. Both Florida and several groups challenging the voting law have agreed not to appeal Hinkle's ruling.

Florida has recently faced numerous legal challenges to its controversial voting laws. Two weeks ago the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] declined to approve changes to Florida's voting law that limits the number of early voting days, saying that the changes would disproportionately affect minority voters [JURIST report]. Earlier in August a Florida administrative law judge heard a challenge to the law [JURIST report]. Florida has also recently faced challenges to its purging policy from the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU-FL) [official website; JURIST report] and a coalition of rights groups [JURIST report] on behalf of several Florida citizens. In June the state said continue to search for ineligible voters even after receiving a letter from DOJ ordering them to stop the practice, prompting DOJ to sue the state. Also that month a federal judge blocked [JURIST report] part of Florida's new 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. Last October the state submitted a request [JURIST report] to a federal court challenging the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [text].

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