Florida sued over voter registration law

| Fri May 19, 2006 6:00 PM EDT

A law passed in Florida last year that fines nonpartisan voter registration activities under certain circumstances, is being challenged in U.S. District Court by the League of Women Voters and several other nonpartisan organizations. The law has forced the League and similar groups to discontinue all voter registration drives, while permitting partisan groups to hold such drives.

In 2004, over half a million Floridians were assisted in voter registration by nonpartisan citizens groups. The 2005 law is described as a reform: A $5,000 fine is imposed for each voter registration application that a nonpartisan group fails to submit. There are less severe fines for missing registration deadlines, which are enforced even in the event of something as catastophic as a hurricane.

The plaintiffs, however, say that the severity of the law has forced them to shut down their voter registration efforts. The suit is being filed on the grounds that the law "violates U.S. free speech rights and disproportionately discriminates against low-income, minority, disabled, and other marginalized citizens in Florida who rely on plaintiffs and similar groups to help them overcome barriers to registering to vote."