Florida’s revised voter registration law attacked

09/07/07 Mitch E. Perry
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The Brennan Center for Justice today asked the Justice Department not to approve Florida’s revised law on voter registration drives. The Center says the law’s new provisions discriminate against minorities and violate the Voting Rights Act.

Two years ago, the state Legislature approved a law that would have imposed deadlines and large fines against non-partisan voter registration groups if they did not file new registrant’s forms within a limited time frame. However, the League of Women Voters last year went to court to block the ruling.

The Legislature revised the law, reducing the amount of the fines third party groups could be charged.

But Renee Paradie, with the Brennan Center of Justice at the NYU School of Law, says the state has still never shown the purpose of the law.

Shortly after the Florida Legislature approved the law in 2005, five groups went to court to try block its implementation. A little over a year ago, a Miami judge granted a preliminary injunction, allowing the groups to continue to register voters.

Dianne Wheatly-Gilotti is president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. Her organization was one of the groups who attempted to stop the law from taking effect. At the time of its passage, some legislators claimed it was needed to prevent voter fraud.

Wheatly-Gilotti said there was no record of that having been a problem.

After the court blocked the law, the Florida Legislature tweaked the law, reducing the number of times voter registration groups could be fined.

But Paradis says that the new provisions will unduly harm the state’s minority voters.

The Brennan Center also maintains that the new provisions violates a section of the Voting Rights Act , which requires states to obtain "preclearance" of a voting law before it can go into effect.

Florida is not entitled to preclearance unless the state law leaves protected minorities no worse off than they would have been without the law.

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