A federal judge is poised to nullify restrictions on third-party voter registration in Florida, saying guidelines imposed by a new law are unnecessarily strict.
Florida's new voting law has been a subject of intense controversy. It drastically tightened restrictions on voter registration drives by imposing steep fines on organizations that do not turn in registration cards within 48 hours of their being filled out, leading the state's League of Women voters to suspend its registration operations.
The League of Women Voters sued to block the measure (the federal Department of Justice filed a separate lawsuit), and U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle vindicated the League on Wednesday by saying he was prepared to permanently suspend the new registration rules.
"This order is a decisive victory for Florida voters," Lee Rowland, an attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice who helped argue the case for the plaintiffs, said in a press release. "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."
Judge Hinkle's ruling does not address parts of Florida' new voting law that curtail early voting. Florida has also battled the federal government over an attempt to purge non-citizens from its voter rolls. State officials defend the push as an attempt to root out voter fraud, but critics say it risks disenfranchising voters.
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Florida is one of several states to have recently enacted new voting laws, drawing protests from voting rights advocates who say the laws unncessarily make it more difficult for minorities, low-income voters and the elderly to vote.