Florida LWV back in the business now of registering voters

"We've got a lot of work to make up," Rice concedes, acknowledging that the League, who has registered new voters in Florida for over 70 years, stopped nearly a year ago once the elections bill was signed by Governor Scott and became law.

That's because of the penalties the LWV (and all other groups registering with voters) faced if they submitted a registration beyond the required deadline - which dramatically was shifted from 10 days to just 48 hours, though Republicans who backed the bill never made an affirmative case of why such a rapid turnaround would prevent fraud, theoretically the raison d'etre for the new law.

Another third-party group says they will get back into registering voters is Rock The Vote.

"Florida is an important youth vote state," adds Heather Smith, President of that organization. "This decision enables us to get back to the work of encouraging a new generation of engaged voters and future leaders."

Critics of the bill, HB 1355, aren't completely satisfied with last week's ruling by Judge Hinkle. They'd also like to see the days of early voting pushed back to what it was before, which included two full weeks before election day, including on Sundays, when some church groups would send their congregations in buses to vote. But that was not part of what was before Judge Hinkle.

"We would like to see the entire law overturned," Rice admitted.

The deadline to register to vote in the August 14 primary is July 16.

Meanwhile LWV officials and others are awaiting Governor Scott's formal response to a Department of Justice directive issued late last week for the state to stop its purging of noncitizen voters.

Six days after federal judge Robert Hinkle blocked the section of the elections bill passed in 2011 that would have given voter-registration groups only 48 hours to turn registration forms over to the state-or risk severe fines, members of the League of Women Voters held press events to announce that they were back in the business of registering voters, though they're not doing so just yet.

In his ruling last week, Judge Hinkle wrote that the 48-hour window imposed a serious burden on groups like the LWV, adding that "permitting responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives and making it easier for citizens to register and vote promotes democracy."

"We're not going to get started with the registration right away," cautions Darden Rice, President of the St. Pete League of Women Voters. She says that her organization needs to go through the formal process of filing with the state their list of officers and volunteers who will be collecting and submitting voter registrations.

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