Last year, Florida passed HB 135, a law that, among other restrictions, curbed voter registration campaigns, requiring third-party organizations to turn over registrations to the state within 48 hours. On May 31, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle temporarily blocked the penalties for this infraction, including a $50 fee for every late application, which he deemed harsh and impractical.
Though the block has led to groups such as the Veteran League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote resuming voter registration drives, according to the Gainesville Sun, the law will likely have already have done its damage.
The groups can momentarily resume their campaigns to recruit voters, but they will do so with more rules than they had been used to in the past, including submitting the names of every volunteer that collects registration forms.
The most significant impact of the restriction is more long-term: it will decrease the number of new voters who will be registered as a result of these organizations. According to a New York Times analysis in March, Florida has had about 81,000 fewer voters register since May 2011 compared to the number of voters who registered for the 2008 presidential election.
Organizations have until July 16 to register new voters for the Aug. 14 primaries. For the Nov. 6 election, organizations have until the Oct. 9 deadline.
The law has been defended by Florida Republicans because of its ability to reduce voter fraud, yet such a protection comes at the cost of voter registration numbers.
Voter registration groups are important. Before the 2008 general election, such organizations were responsible for 27,000 registered voters in Leon County, County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho said to WFSU.
With such a significant portion of voters attributed to voter registration organizations, an almost yearlong restriction against organizations undermines the democracy inherent within the elections.
Whether the restriction was passed to curb fraud or whether it had ulterior motives to curb young or minority voters who tend to lean toward the Democratic Party, the repercussions of the restrictive law remain the same. No matter the means, the restriction curbs the ability of new voters to register, which appears to be a blatant violation of civil rights.
A clear solution that would adequately eliminate voter fraud has not been presented, but the voter registration restriction in Florida is not it.
The restriction served as a detriment to the work of voter registration groups that could have recruited voters in the year in which the restriction was in place, and though the injunction alleviates the strain of the restriction, it cannot restore lost time.