3 civil rights groups file federal lawsuits over new Florida election laws championed by Gov. DeSantis

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three organizations have filed federal lawsuits alleging that Florida Senate Bill 7050 violates First Amendment rights and undermines efforts to register black and Hispanic voters.

The groups are the NAACP, League of Women Voters of Florida, and the Hispanic Federation.

The bill was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Handles elections, including third party voter registration organizations.

The bill also prevents non-citizens and people convicted of certain crimes, such as identity theft, from handling voter registration.

It also shortens the time it takes to submit registration forms to supervisors of elections. It takes from 14 to 10 days.

“The state is creating more barriers to the democratic process, especially for communities of color,” said Frederick Vélez III, of the Hispanic Federation.

His organization is among three groups that have filed lawsuits alleging the state is violating First Amendment rights.

Vélez said not allowing non-citizens and criminals to help with the registration process will hurt his group’s voter outreach.

His organization sent a letter to the Florida Republican Party when the bill was introduced hoping they would change their minds.

Vélez said that it didn’t work, and that approximately 60% of his organization’s pollsters are not citizens, but in the country legally, this will be harmful.

“Just by putting up these barriers, just by making it more onerous for us to register, we already know that there are some people who are unfortunately going to go under the radar because they don’t have other ways to register,” Vélez said. “They have organizations like us that are integrated into 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 foundation of our democracy, and as it turns out, Florida sets the national standard for its well-run and trustworthy electoral process. The new Ethics and Elections law simply builds on that success.”

Vélez said that even though his group is fighting this, he is still in shock, all this is happening.

“I felt surprised even though a lot of things don’t surprise me anymore,” he said.

The lawsuits also aim at increasing the fines that voter registration organizations could face if they fail to turn in forms on time. They could face up to $250,000 a year in fines, five times the current limit.

Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.