SAVE Dade, a Miami-based LGBT rights group, says it has been “tremendously negatively impacted” by the state’s new voting law, which created new restrictions on third party voter registration.
SAVE Dade is one of many advocacy groups in the state that used to run voter registration drives before elections to promote civic engagement. But a new law passed this year has installed new limitations on third-party voter registration drives, and also levies financial penalties on groups that violate those rules.
The law also created a shortened “shelf life” for signatures collected for ballot initiatives, placed new restrictions on voters changing their registered addresses on election day, and reduced the number of early voting days.
David Valk, a community organizer with SAVE Dade, tells The Florida Independent that the non-partisan group has had to change its strategy since the passage of the controversial elections law.
“We have been tremendously negatively impacted,” Valk explains.
He says the group has relied heavily on volunteers to register voters in the past. Because the group does not generate enough money to pay the steep financial penalties, Valk says the group has decided to not register voters this election for the first time since the group’s inception 18 years ago.
“In effect, we’d go bankrupt,” he says. “What we are doing now is ‘working with the law’ to canvass supporters and make sure they are registered to vote.”
Valk says the group’s new campaign “#12×12″ would train their volunteers to provide help to people who support the group but are not registered to vote. He says he hopes to sign on “12,000 new pro-equality supporters” despite the new law.
On the group’s website, the promotion for training for the new campaign says:
New laws in the State of Florida have made it difficult for organizations like SAVE Dade to register voters.
Despite this challenge, we have worked with other community leaders to develop a unique and powerful solution. Please sign up to join us at our first voter engagement training and learn how you can help advance the movement for equality in South Florida by increasing LGBT voter registration.
Valk says the group sought advice from other groups on how to best move forward since the law’s implementation in 62 counties in the state. Florida is currently waiting for a ruling on controversial aspects of the law from a court in the District of Columbia.
Valk says that because the 2012 election is still far away, other groups have not been proactive in dealing with the new law.
“They just aren’t educated enough about the law,” he says.
“And this isn’t just a partisan issue,” he adds. “This is an incumbent issue. Legislators are doing this so they can stay in power. Everyone should be angry.”