On May 24, 2023, Florida enacted a new law imposing some of the nation’s most stringent restrictions on voter registration activities. The law imposes unprecedented civil and criminal penalties on groups that might violate one of many burdensome restrictions while collecting and submitting voter registration forms. These include:
- Severe civil and criminal penalties for retaining a voter registration applicant’s “personal information,” even with the consent of that applicant.
- Costly civil penalties for failing to deliver voter registration applications to election officials within a short 10-day period—up to $250,000 per civic organization in a calendar year.
- Prohibitions on non-U.S. citizens and people with certain felony convictions “collecting or handling voter registration applications” on behalf of the civic organization.
- Requirements for volunteers to give “receipts” to each voter registration applicant that they assist, which must include the registrant’s personal information, including their political party affiliation, the volunteer’s name, the civic organization’s name.
- Mandatory registration of every volunteer conducting voter registration activities on behalf of the civic organization with the Division of Elections, including submitting their name and address to the Division.
- Mandatory registration of any civic organization conducting voter registration efforts with the Division of Elections before each election cycle, changing current law which only requires registration once.
For years, voter registration drives have been a way for historically marginalized and disenfranchised groups to empower their communities and gain access to the ballot box. Yet, Florida—which has one of the lowest percentages of its voting-age citizens registered to vote in the country—is unlawfully chilling the efforts of organizations working to get people registered, in apparent response to civic efforts during the last election cycle to boost voter registration and turnout in the state.
Lawmakers in Florida have asserted that the law is needed to combat “issues” in these civic organizations’ voter registration efforts—without offering any real evidence that such “issues” exist or would be addressed by threatening civic groups with civil and criminal penalties.
Instead, the new law hampers the activities of civic groups seeking to register and mobilize voters in their communities. In so doing, the law creates burdensome, unnecessary, and irrational restrictions on these groups’ protected voter registration speech and activity in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.