HOUSTON, Texas — All Sabu Williams wanted to do on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend was register voters.
One can imagine his surprise, then, when soon thereafter he received a letter from the state supervisor of elections threatening him with prosecution.
The letter claimed Williams, president of the Okaloosa County NAACP, had run afoul of Florida’s new voter suppression law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature last year. The law cut the state’s early voting period in half and enacted a host of new requirements on voter registration groups, including that they must turn in completed forms within 48 hours exactly or face a fine. (The 48-hour rule has since been blocked by a federal judge.)
After the rule was first put in place, the NAACP was the only group in Okaloosa County that braved the new pitfalls and continued to register voters. However, when they registered voters over MLK weekend, they were charged with submitting the forms an hour late on Tuesday, despite the fact that they were unable to submit forms on Monday because it was a holiday.
“We’re here the very first day that you’re open at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and you’re saying that we’re an hour late?” Williams asked. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
He soon received a letter from the state supervisor of elections. “We appreciate you going out and registering voters,” the letter read. “However, you were late for two of those and if you’re late anymore we’re going to turn this over to the Florida Department of Justice for prosecution.”
Watch highlights from his interview with ThinkProgress: