ACLU celebrates the July decision by a federal judge blocking parts of a new Florida elections law

Florida election recount
Vote-by-mail ballot dropoff sign in Pinellas County, Florida. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (Oct. 2018).

A federal judge recently blocked parts of a new Florida law (SB 7050) that made it more difficult for community-based organizations to register people to vote.

We heard from the deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project about political speech and civic engagement. Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux argued the preliminary injunction motion against Florida’s new voter registration law on behalf of the plaintiffs.

In his ruling released the day before July 4, the judge wrote that if it weren’t for the new law, individuals and groups that include noncitizens would be registering new voters and “In doing so, they would embody those democratic ideals that, for nearly two hundred forty-seven years, have made out system the envy of the world.”

Listen to the full show here:

Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux reacts to the judge’s decision

“The bill bans all non-citizens — it treated all non-citizens the same — whether they have lawful status like our clients do, or whether they are whether they have something short of lawful status.

“And that includes veterans, that includes people who work in Florida state agencies who have access to sensitive information already. And the state by virtue of the fact that it is banning protected speech, protected conduct, and by virtue of the fact that it’s targeting non-citizens in particular had to do what’s called tailor its law to address a specific problem. And here it did not do that it just blanket-bans all non-citizens from engaging in voter registration work.

“And on July 3, Chief Judge Mark Walker of a federal court in Tallahassee, they couldn’t do that and blocked the law. And we’re very happy that he did.”

Watch this interview:

A law professor weighs in

Last week on Tuesday Cafe, Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor of law at Stetson University College of Law had this to say about SB 7050 and other recent elections laws in Florida.

“The other frustrating thing about this is Florida has done this before. So Florida has made it nearly impossible for voter registration groups to register voters in Florida. And it’s inevitably challenged, and Florida has either lost or settled those cases.

“So they basically stop the law that made it so hard for voter registration groups like the League of Women Voters, which is why if you are a law nerd, if you look up the League of Women Voters of Florida, you will find that they have been plaintiffs in lots of lawsuits against Florida and that they’ve won lots of lawsuits against Florida because Florida has this bad habit of trying to make it more difficult to lawfully register to vote.

“And one of the ways they do that is they just make it completely impossible for the voting rights groups like the League of Women Voters to help people get registered, which is sort of like another version of trying to make it more difficult to vote.”

Also on Tuesday Cafe on Aug. 1: HB 837

We heard a range of opinions about a recent Florida law changing civil litigation and impacting things like lawsuits involving automobile insurance in Florida. The state legislature passed what it calls “tort reform” that modifies how civil remedies in lawsuits are determined. For one, it got rid of something called “one-way attorney fees.”

The new law was discussed by three panelists at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club:

  • William Large is with The Florida Justice Reform Institute, a group that advocates for tort reform. He was deputy chief of staff for Governor Jeb Bush. He lobbied to pass this law, HB 837.
  • Steve Barnes is the president of the Tampa Bay Trial Lawyers Association. He began his career representing insurance companies but then switched to representing consumers.
  • Jennifer Feld is the owner of Feld Legal, which does mediation & dispute resolution in tort litigation.

WMNF’s Tuesday Café

Tuesday Café airs weekly on WMNF beginning at 10:06 a.m. ET.

You can listen live on 88.5 FM in Tampa Bay, on or on the WMNF Community Radio app.

You can watch replays on TBAE Network Channels at 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Tuesdays on Spectrum 636, Frontier 34 and Or on demand.

You can listen anytime on demand on or by subscribing to the Tuesday Café podcast on your favorite podcast platform. – WMNF’s Tuesday Café with Seán Kinane.

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