Federal Judge Strikes Down Provision of Florida’s 2023 Voter Suppression Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal judge on Friday struck down a provision of Florida’s 2023 omnibus anti-voting law that bars noncitizens from collecting or handling voter registration applications on behalf of third-party voter registration organizations (3PVROs) — groups that engage in community-based voter registration. 

Issued by Obama-appointed Judge Mark E. Walker, Friday’s order originates from a federal lawsuit filed in May 2023 by Hispanic Federation, Poder Latinx and voters challenging the citizenship requirement for 3PVROs contained in the state’s most recent voter suppression legislation, Senate Bill 7050. In addition to prohibiting noncitizens from assisting 3PVROs with voter registration efforts, the law imposes a $50,000 fine on organizations that violate the requirement. 

Prior to the ruling, Walker granted the plaintiffs’ request to temporarily block the citizenship provision as litigation proceeds. In that July 2023 order, Walker found that the provision likely violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by “impermissibly discriminat[ing] based on alienage.” State officials subsequently appealed the preliminary injunction ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a decision remains pending. 

As a result of Friday’s order granting the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on their Equal Protection claim, Florida’s Republican Secretary of State Cord Byrd will not be able to enforce S.B. 7050’s citizenship requirement for 3PVROs. According to the order, “the Florida Legislature chose to discriminate against all noncitizens on the face of the challenged provision” without a compelling state interest. 

Walker also denied Byrd’s request to defer a resolution of the plaintiffs’ motion until after the 11th Circuit rules on his appeal of last year’s preliminary injunction blocking the provision. 

In the order, Walker denied the plaintiffs’ summary judgment request against Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), holding that it remains in dispute as to whether Moody plays a role in enforcing the citizenship requirement. “This question must be answered with the benefit of a complete record after trial,” Walker wrote. 

The following Tuesday, Walker granted in part the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment in a related case brought by the Florida State Conference of Branches and Youth Units of the NAACP’s against S.B. 7050. In his order, Walker reiterated that the Florida secretary of state is permanently prohibited from enforcing S.B. 7050’s noncitizen voter registration assistance provision, holding that this portion of the law violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. 

A consolidated trial involving the NAACP and Hispanic Federation lawsuits — as well as a similar case from the League of Women Voters of Florida also challenging S.B. 7050 — is scheduled for April 1, 2024. 

This post was updated on Tuesday, March 5 at 3:59 p.m. EST to reflect Judge Walker’s March 5 ruling granting in part the NAACP’s motion for summary judgment in its case against Florida’s S.B. 7050.

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.