Florida Department of State
Kurt S. Browning
Secretary of State
For Immediate Release
August 12, 2008
Court Upholds Law Holding Third-Party Voter Registration Groups Accountable
TALLAHASSEE, Fl (August 12, 2008) -- Last Wednesday in Miami, Federal District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga sustained the constitutionality of a Florida law that holds private, third-party political groups accountable for the voter registration forms they collect from Florida citizens. In upholding the law, the court recognized “the legitimacy of Florida’s interests in ensuring that voters are not disenfranchised by third parties’ mishandling of, or failure to submit, voter registration applications.”
The law protects the right to vote by requiring third-party groups to submit the applications they collect to election officials – and to do so within 10 days and before the pre-election registration deadline. The Florida Legislature enacted the law in response to the large-scale problems created during the 2004 election cycle by groups that hoarded voter registration applications, submitting them too late, or never submitting them at all.
The League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida AFL-CIO brought the lawsuit in April claiming that the law hampers their voter registration efforts as well as violating their First Amendment rights. Judge Altonaga disagreed in a 48-page order, stating that the law (Fla. Stat. § 97.0575) “does not place any direct restrictions or preconditions” on interactions with prospective voters. At the same time, the court cited evidence that third-party groups had “hoarded” applications, had “failed to submit” them by the pre-election registration deadline, or had “even failed to submit applications at all.”
The court’s order came after a two-day trial held in Miami less than a month after a Federal judge in Gainesville refused to strike down another Florida voter registration law that requires voter registration applications to provide a verifiable driver’s license number or social security digits with their applications.
Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning praised the Legislature and the Court, stating: “Every voter registration applicant who completes an application and entrusts it to somebody else should fully expect that the application will promptly reach election officials so that the applicant may be registered and eligible to vote. This law does just that and protects the right to vote of all Floridians.” Browning announced that the law would be implemented in the near future, once an implementing rule is finalized.
Click here for the Court’s Order. (.pdf)