Score two for the people of Florida, zero for Rick Scott and those who support his effort to suppress the vote.
A big thanks to League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, and Rock the Vote, who sought and won a temporary injunction forbidding the Scott regime from suppressing voter registration efforts.
The Department of Justice informed Scott’s Secretary of State, that their voter purge violates the National Voter Registration Act on several grounds.
Yesterday, the U.S. District Court ordered a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of amendments to Florida Statute § 97.0575, which pertains to voter registration and the implementing Rule 1S-2.042,
This is a significant ruling in several ways. It is the first court ruling that addresses the ALEC inspired voter suppression laws that Republican controlled states have implemented. It means that while this is a temporary measure, Scott’s law restricting voter registration cannot be implemented, effective immediately. It also means the court believes that the plaintiffs in this case are ultimately likely to succeed in proving their claim that this law violates the constitution. While this is not a done deal, yet, it is very encouraging news for those of us who believe in the very American value that citizens of the United States have a constitutional right to vote.
The plaintiffs sought the injunction on the basis that this law violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA ) and the Constitution.
While the court was not prepared to accept that this law violates the NVRA, its comments on the constitutional issues are nothing short of damning. The Court reflects on how Scott’s law violates constitutional provisions guaranteeing voting rights and the first amendment.
The assertion that the challenged provisions implicate no constitutional rights is plainly wrong. The plaintiffs wish to speak, encouraging others to register to vote, and some of the challenged provisions—for example, the requirement to disclose in advance the identity of an employee or volunteer who will do nothing more than speak—regulate pure speech. This is core First Amendment activity.
More importantly, the plaintiffs wish to assist others with the process of registering and thus, in due course, voting. Voting is a right protected by several constitutional provisions; state election codes thus are subject to constitutional scrutiny. Together speech and voting are constitutional rights of special significance; they are the rights most protective of all others, joined in this respect by the ability to vindicate one’s rights in a federal court.
The DOJ also had a message for the Scott regime. Talking Points Memo reports that the DOJ sent Florida’s Secretary of State a letter http://www.scribd.com/doc/95500652/TPM-Docs-DOJ-Demands-Florida-Stop-Voter-Purge informing him that the Scott Purge program violates the National Voter Registration on several grounds including: “voter roll maintenance should have ceased 90 days before an election, which given Florida’s August 14 primary, meant May 16.”
As noted by Think Progress, Scott’s series of voter suppression laws have had a chilling effect on minorities.
Voters have already begun to experience the effects of new anti-voting laws. Minority voter registration is down significantly from the 2008 election. Among Latinos nationwide, voter registration has dropped five percent; for blacks, registration rates are down seven percent.
It was obvious from the beginning that this was never about rectifying the statistically non-existent problem of voter fraud. Rather, it amounts to an admission by the Republican Party that it cannot win elections on the merit of their policies.
Image from Daily Marion