WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, May 24, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed an omnibus voter suppression bill, Senate Bill 7050, into law. Shortly after the enactment of S.B. 7050, the Florida Conference of the NAACP and other pro-voting organizations filed a lawsuit challenging certain anti-voting provisions of the law. Specifically, the lawsuit challenges S.B. 7050’s restrictions and penalties imposed on third-party voter registration organizations (3PVROs) — organizations that engage in community-based voter registration — and limitations placed on voter assistance options for requesting a mail-in ballot.
The complaint alleges that S.B. 7050 targets 3PVROs and attempts to curtail their voter registration and engagement activities by:
- Imposing a substantial fine for late-returned voter registration applications or applications accidently submitted to the wrong county by 3PVROs;
- Barring noncitizen volunteers and individuals with certain prior felony convictions from conducting voter registration activities on behalf of 3PRVOs and
- Criminalizing routine retention of voter information for any purpose except voter registration, thus making it a felony to retain voter information for other activities such as get-out-the-vote efforts.
“[P]eople of color are five times more likely than white Floridians to register with the assistance of a 3PVRO,” the complaint reads, underscoring that “communities that have been historically excluded from the franchise — in particular Black and Latinx populations,” are most likely to be harmed by S.B. 7050’s restrictions. The plaintiffs claim that S.B. 7050’s 3PVRO-related restrictions violate the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
In addition, the plaintiffs challenge a provision of S.B. 7050 that only allows county supervisors to accept requests for mail-in ballots from voters or their immediate family members. Prior to the enactment of S.B. 7050, “Floridians could depend on trusted friends, neighbors, community organizations, and caregivers to request a vote-by-mail ballot,” the complaint states. In turn, the plaintiffs argue that voters with disabilities as well as young and limited English-speaking voters will be disproportionately affected by S.B. 7050’s voter assistance limitations pertaining to requesting mail-in ballots. The plaintiffs claim that this portion of S.B. 7050 violates Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, which provides for voter assistance opportunities to “[a]ny voter who requires assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write.”
The plaintiffs request that a federal court block the defendants from enforcing the challenged provisions of S.B. 7050 and declare them in violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal law.
Aside from the provisions challenged in the lawsuit, S.B. 7050 imposes numerous other anti-voting measures. Some of these measures include:
- Shortening the deadline to request a mail-in ballot by one day;
- Directing mail-in ballot requests to be canceled if any first class mail to a voter is returned as undeliverable;
- Requiring election supervisors to add personal identifying numbers to voter records — a provision included at the request of the Florida Department of State that could pave the way to requiring ID numbers on completed mail-in ballots and
- Requiring county election officials to report fraudulent registrations and illegal voting to the Office of Election Crimes and Security, a new law enforcement office that made news last year for arresting individuals who mistakenly thought they were eligible to vote.
Additionally, S.B. 7050 would allow Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for president while remaining the governor of Florida as the law repeals the state’s former “resign-to-run” requirement. You can read about S.B. 7050’s other anti-voting provisions here.
With the enactment of S.B. 7050, Florida is now the second state to pass a major, omnibus voter suppression law this year, joining Ohio. Ohio’s House Bill 458 — which imposes strict photo ID requirements and limitations on mail-in voting and in-person early voting — is currently being challenged in federal court as well. Meanwhile, Republican-controlled legislatures across the country continue to enact other anti-voting laws in states like Arkansas, Idaho and South Dakota.