Federal judge to toss Florida voter registration restrictions

Updated
Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on May 16, 2012.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on May 16, 2012.
AP Photo/J Pat Carter

Some good news for democracy in Florida.  

A federal judge says he’ll issue a permanent injunction against provisions in the state’s new election law that restricted third-party voter registration drives.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said today he intends to permanently block the law, pending the case’s dismissal from a Court of Appeals. 

Hinkle ordered a temporary injunction on May 31, declaring that the law, enacted by the state legislature’s Republican majority and signed by Gov. Rick Scott (R), put “harsh and impractical” restrictions on civic groups focused on registering new voters.

“This order is a decisive victory for Florida voters,” said Lee Rowland of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, one of the attorneys who argued the case for the plaintiffs.

“The Florida legislature has tried repeatedly to stifle access to voter registration opportunities, and once again a federal court has stopped them in their tracks,” Rowland.  ”We are thrilled that voter registration groups can now get back to what they do best – expanding our democracy.”

The suit was filed by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote, and the Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. The Justice Department also challenged the restrictions in a separate lawsuit.

As we told you last night, a new analysis by the Florida Times-Union shows that since a new set of state voting laws went into effect last year (July 1, 2011), the number of new Democrats registering in Florida has all but disappeared.

During the 13 months beginning July 1 the year before elections in 2004 and 2008, registered Democrats increased by an average of 209,425 voters.

From 2011 to this year, that number was 11,365.

Over that same time, the number of registered Republicans increased by 128,039, topping the average of 103,555 during the past two presidential cycles.”

Here’s the stunning news in chart form:

Federal judge to toss Florida voter registration restrictions

“It has without a doubt hurt registration numbers,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Florida. “It really gummed up the works and made it harder for Floridians to get registered.”

Federal judge to toss Florida voter registration restrictions

Updated