Florida’s Effort to Restrict and Penalize Nonpartisan Civic Engagement Groups is Undemocratic

A woman speaks at a podium with a group of other women gathered behind with their mouths covered with red tape. They all hold signs saying "Make Democracy Work".
The League of Women Voters of Florida at an event in Tallahassee, in March 2023. Photo courtesy of The League of Women Voters of Florida

As long as America has had representative democracy, civic-minded folks have worked tirelessly to ensure their neighbors could access it—registering people to vote, holding voter education events and promoting civic engagement.  

Nonpartisan civic engagement groups, composed of civic-minded Americans, have long been a central pillar in our American civic tradition. Despite their role in promoting a healthy and inclusive democracy, the work of civic engagement groups has recently come under attack by self-interested politicians, and Campaign Legal Center (CLC) is fighting back. 

CLC filed a lawsuit today on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Florida to block provisions of Florida’s recently enacted election law that would restrict and penalize basic nonpartisan civic engagement efforts.  

The law, Senate Bill 7050, directly targets and drastically restricts the ability of nonpartisan civic engagement organizations, like League of Women Voters of Florida, to engage with voters, violating their right to freedom of speech. 

The law is a clear affront to democracy. Not only does it represent a serious attack on free speech and association, but it would also have clear negative effects on historically marginalized communities—including Black and brown voters, low-income voters, voters with disabilities and young voters—who rely on these nonpartisan efforts to help make their voices heard. According to an independent analysis, Floridians of color are five times more likely to register to vote through nonpartisan third-party civic engagement organizations than white Floridians. 

The lawsuit challenges provisions of Senate Bill 7050 that would fine nonpartisan civic engagement groups $50,000 for every volunteer with certain felony convictions or who is not a U.S. citizen who registers voters on behalf of the organization, which would prevent non-U.S. citizens and many formerly incarcerated individuals from even engaging with voters in their community. 

Additionally, the lawsuit would block provisions of the bill that shorten the timeframe for civic engagement groups to verify voter information and deliver completed voter registration applications to election officials.  

It also challenges the prohibition on civic organizations retaining voters’ personal information, even if they have the voter’s consent, and significantly raises the maximum potential fines for engaging in First Amendment-protected voter registration activity. 

CLC recently won a major decision in Kansas to permanently block similar provisions of an anti-voter law that prohibited nonpartisan civic organizations based out-of-state from mailing advance mail ballot applications to any voter in the state and barred any personalization of such mailers. 

Our democracy is strongest when every voter can make their voice heard. We should celebrate, not punish, the civic-minded organizations and volunteers who help Americans vote.  

Adam is a Media Associate, Voting Rights and Redistricting at CLC.