JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three organizations have filed federal lawsuits, claiming Florida’s Senate Bill 7050 violates First Amendment rights and harms efforts to sign up Black and Hispanic voters.
The groups are NAACP, League of Women Voters of Florida and Hispanic Federation.
The bill was signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. It deals with elections, including third-party voter registration organizations.
The bill also prevents non-citizens and people convicted of certain felonies, like identity theft, from handling voter registration.
It also shortens the deadline for delivering registration forms to the supervisors of elections. It takes it from 14 days to 10.
“The state is creating more barriers to the democratic process, especially for communities of color,” Frederick Velez III, with the Hispanic Federation, said.
His organization is among three groups that have filed lawsuits saying the state is violating First Amendment rights.
Velez said not allowing non-citizens and felons to help with the sign-up process will harm his group’s voter outreach.
His organization sent out a letter to the Florida Republican Party when the bill was introduced hoping it would change minds.
Velez said it didn’t work, and with about 60% of his organization’s canvassers being noncitizens, but in the country legally, this will be harmful.
“Just by putting these barriers, just by making it more burdensome for us to register we already know that there are some people who are unfortunately going to fall through the cracks because they don’t have other ways to get registered,” Velez said. “They’re counting on organizations like us who are embedded in the communities to be able to register them.”
Supporters of the bill said the changes are designed to improve election security and protect information submitted by voters.
Duval GOP chairman and state representative Dean Black told News4JAx in a statement:
“Fair and transparent elections are the bedrock of our democracy, and Florida happens to set the standard nationwide for its well-run and trusted election process. The new Ethics and Elections law simply builds on that success.”
Velez said even though his group is fighting this, he is still shocked, all of this is happening.
“I felt surprised even though a lot of things don’t surprise me anymore,” he said.
The lawsuits also target increased fines that voter registration organizations could face if they don’t turn in forms on time. They could face up to $250,000 a year in fines, five times the current cap.