- Chief U.S. District Judge rules against sections of Florida’s new elections law aimed at ballot security, stating they infringe on the rights of third-party voter registration groups.
- The legislation, signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, includes restrictions on non-citizens assisting with voter registration, but the judge deems these changes unconstitutional.
- The ruling is likely to be appealed, as similar challenges have occurred in the past with mixed outcomes.
In a 58-page legal decision that will temporarily halt sections of a new Florida elections law aimed at improving ballot security, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled that the law infringes on the rights of third-party voter registration groups. Walker delivered a 58-page ruling on Monday, outlining his stance against provisions of the Florida law that he concluded were in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The new legislation, SB 7050, was signed into law by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and involved several changes to Florida’s election system, including restrictions on using non-citizens to help register voters in the state. Republican leaders in the state, including DeSantis, argued that the changes were integral for election security.
However, Walker, nominated by President Barack Obama, rejected those arguments, instead siding with organizations like the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Florida, and the Hispanic Federation, all of which argued that the changes contravene the U.S. Constitution. Walker noted that while Florida has the authority to regulate its elections, the state has overstepped constitutional boundaries with the new law, including the mandate that each person involved in collecting or handling voter registration applications on behalf of third-party organizations must affirm their U.S. citizenship. The law would subject organizations using non-citizens to a fine of $50,000 for each illegal participant in the voter registration effort.
Walker ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, agreeing that this restriction infringes on constitutional equal-protection rights.
A second part of the law targeted by Walker’s ruling would have made it a felony for an individual working for a voter-registration group to keep or copy a voter’s personal information, barring reasons directly related to their work for the organization. According to Walker, this section of the law is vague and offers a broad interpretation of what might constitute “personal information.”
The ruling, however, is likely to face an appeal. Earlier in March 2022, Walker had blocked parts of a 2021 elections law in a 288-page decision, but a majority of an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel overturned much of that ruling. The groups challenging the law have since petitioned the full Atlanta-based appeals court to review the case.