They’re at it again. In 2006, Florida lawmakers passed a law that would have placed new restrictions on independent groups that register voters. That law drew a court challenge that ultimately succeeded in changing it. They tried again in 2008, prompting another legal battle. #
Now, in the name of curbing fraudulent registrations, the Florida House has introduced a sweeping overhaul of the state’s election laws that proposes new restrictions on third-party voter registration groups. #
Deirdre Macnab of the Florida League of Women Voters, which helped bring the challenge to the earlier law, says the measure would have a chilling effect on voter registration — she asks: Why would anybody want that? — and would likely trigger another legal battle if it passes in its current form. #
There was no Senate companion to the House measure, till Thursday afternoon, when a 4,023-line amendment was proposed that would impose sweeping changes on an election bill that is up for debate today in the Rules Committee. It’s different in some respects from the House version, but it does include new restrictions on voter registration groups: #
50 (1) Before engaging in any voter registration activities, a
51 third-party voter registration organization must register and
52 provide to the division, in an electronic format, the following
54 (a) The names of the officers of the organization and the
55 name and permanent address of the organization.
56 (b) The name and address of the organization’s registered
57 agent in the state.
58 (c) The names, permanent addresses, temporary addresses, if
59 any, and dates of birth of each registration agent registering
60 persons to vote in this state on behalf of the organization.
61 (d) A sworn statement from each registration agent employed
62 by or volunteering for the organization stating that the agent
63 will obey all state laws and rules regarding the registration of
64 voters. Such statement must be on a form containing notice of
65 applicable criminal penalties for false registration.
66 (2) The division or the supervisor of elections shall make
67 voter registration forms available to third-party voter
68 registration organizations. All such forms must contain
69 information identifying the organization to which the forms are
70 provided. The division and each supervisor of elections shall
71 maintain a database of all third-party registration
72 organizations and the voter registration forms assigned to the
73 third-party registration organizations. Such information must be
74 provided in an electronic format as provided by division rule.
75 By noon of each day, such information must also be updated, made
76 publicly available, and, with respect to records in each
77 supervisor’s database, contemporaneously provided to the
79 (3)(a) A third-party voter registration organization that
80 collects voter registration applications serves as a fiduciary
81 to the applicant, ensuring that any voter registration
82 application entrusted to the organization, irrespective of party
83 affiliation, race, ethnicity, or gender, shall be promptly
84 delivered to the division or the supervisor of elections within
85 48 hours after the applicant completes it or the next business
86 day if the appropriate office is closed for that 48-hour period.
87 If a voter registration application collected by any third-party
88 voter registration organization is not promptly delivered to the
89 division or supervisor of elections, the third-party voter
90 registration organization is liable for the following fines:
91 1. A fine in the amount of $50 for each application
92 received by the division or the supervisor of elections more
93 than 10 days after the applicant delivered the completed voter
94 registration application to the third-party voter registration
95 organization or any person, entity, or agent acting on its
96 behalf. A fine in the amount of $250 for each application
97 received if the third-party registration organization or person,
98 entity, or agency acting on its behalf acted willfully.
99 2. A fine in the amount of $100 for each application
100 collected by a third-party voter registration organization or
101 any person, entity, or agent acting on its behalf, before book
102 closing for any given election for federal or state office and
103 received by the division or the supervisor of elections after
104 the book-closing deadline for such election. A fine in the
105 amount of $500 for each application received if the third-party
106 registration organization or person, entity, or agency acting on
107 its behalf acted willfully.
108 3. A fine in the amount of $500 for each application
109 collected by a third-party voter registration organization or
110 any person, entity, or agent acting on its behalf, which is not
111 submitted to the division or supervisor of elections. A fine in
112 the amount of $1,000 for any application not submitted if the
113 third-party registration organization or person, entity, or
114 agency acting on its behalf acted willfully.
116 The aggregate fine pursuant to this paragraph which may be
117 assessed against a third-party voter registration organization,
118 including affiliate organizations, for violations committed in a
119 calendar year is $1,000. The fines provided in this subsection
120 shall be reduced by three-fourths in cases in which the third
121 party voter registration organization has complied with
122 subsection (1).
123 (b) A showing by the organization that the failure to
124 deliver the voter registration application within the required
125 timeframe is based upon force majeure or impossibility of
126 performance shall be an affirmative defense to a violation of
127 this subsection. The Secretary of State may waive the fines
128 described in this subsection upon a showing that the failure to
129 deliver the voter registration application promptly is based
130 upon force majeure or impossibility of performance.
131 (4) If the Secretary of State reasonably believes that a
132 person has committed a violation of any provision of this
133 section, the secretary shall refer the matter to the Attorney
134 General for enforcement. The Attorney General may institute a
135 civil action for a violation of this section or to prevent a
136 violation of this section. An action for relief may include a
137 permanent or temporary injunction, a restraining order, or any
138 other appropriate order. #