A federal judge has issued a strong rejection of legislative attempts to restrict voting in Florida by blocking certain provisions of the state’s comprehensive new election law, ruling them unconstitutional. Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker sided with advocates for voting rights and immigrants who had sought a preliminary injunction against Florida’s Senate Bill 7050, arguing that it unconstitutionally suppresses political expression and undermines efforts to promote civic engagement and democratic participation.
According to Walker’s 58-page ruling, “Florida may, of course, regulate elections, including the voter-registration process. Here, however, the challenged provisions exemplify something Florida has struggled with in recent years; namely, governing within the bounds set by the United States Constitution. When state government power threatens to spread beyond constitutional bounds and reduce individual rights to ashes, the federal judiciary stands as a firewall. The Free State of Florida is simply not free to exceed the bounds of the United States Constitution.”
Senate Bill 7050, signed into law by Florida’s Republican governor and potential presidential candidate Ron DeSantis in late May, faced opposition and a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the NAACP, the Hispanic Federation, and others. The bill imposes restrictions specifically targeting third-party voter-registration organizations, including limitations on their activities, the type of work they can undertake, and who can be employed by them, under the threat of substantial fines.
The legal challenge focused on two provisions of the law. Firstly, the provision that would subject third-party voter-registration organizations to a $50,000 fine for each noncitizen who handles or collects voter-registration applications on their behalf. Secondly, the provision that would make it a felony for individuals collecting voter-registration applications for a third-party group to duplicate a voter’s application or retain their personal information, such as their Florida driver’s license number.