Three months after a federal judge blocked much of Florida’s year-old voter suppression law as an unconstitutional infringement on speech and voting rights, the same judge agreed Tuesday to permanently remove the restrictions on voter registration drives, pending final confirmation that a federal appeals court has dismissed the case. In a settlement, the civil rights groups challenging the law and the state agreed not to appeal the case.
HB 1355, enacted by the state legislature’s Republican majority and signed by Gov. Rick Scott (R) — went into effect last July, putting major new restrictions on groups who work to register new voters. The law imposed harsh new restrictions on third-party voter registration groups, requiring them to turn in completed registration forms 48 hours — to the minute — after completion, or face fines.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, in his May order, put the restrictions on hold, finding “the statute and rule impose burdensome record-keeping and reporting requirements that serve little if any purpose, thus rendering them unconstitutional even to the extent they do not violate the [National Voter Registration Act].”
Unfortunately, before the law was struck down, it had a clear effect: driving down voter registration numbers in Florida. The Florida Times-Union reported this week that Democratic voter registration in the state “all but [dried] up” in the wake of the law’s enactment.