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Federal Judge Strikes Down Some Florida Election Reforms

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(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Legislative Session Coverage

TALLAHASSEE – A Florida federal judge has struck a blow in the election reform laws championed by Governor Rick Scott and the Republican-led state legislature.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle struck down provisions of the law that imposed strict restrictions on third-party groups that register new voters.

Hinkle’s order said that a 48-hour deadline for groups to turn in new voter registration forms is “harsh and impractical.”

“The plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm if an injunction is not issued, first because the denial of a right of this magnitude under circumstances like these almost always inflicts irreparable harm, and second because when a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever,” Judge Hinkle wrote.

However, Hinkle said other parts of the law could remain in place, likely including the portion allowing early voting to be shortened.

Judge Hinkle said in his ruling that the state would have no problems going back to the old system.

“Indeed, there is no  reason to believe the injunction will cause any damage to the state at all. Before  the adoption of the 2011 statute, the state was operating under provisions that, at  least insofar as shown by this record, were working well,” Judge Hinkle. “There is no reason to  believe that returning to that regime will impact the state’s legitimate interests in  any way.”

The provision over 48-hour deadlines for registration forms to be submitted caused the League of Women Voters suspended all voter registration activity in Florida.

The LWV said the ruling was a victory and that the restrictions passed by the Republican-controlled legislature are aimed at suppressing turnout. Republicans cite voter fraud concerns for the change in the law.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson said of the ruling, “This law clearly was designed to stop people from voting, and I’m glad to see the judge’s ruling.”

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