Voter registration is down in Florida. Is it because of the new elections law?

In Volusia County, new registrations dropped by nearly a fifth compared with the same period four years ago. When asked about those numbers, the county's supervisor of elections, Ann McFall, a Republican, tells the Times that she attributes much of the change to the new law. ?The drop-off is our League of Women Voters, our five universities in Volusia County, none of which are making a concentrated effort this year."

But a spokesman for the Florida Division of Elections, Chris Cate, questions whether the drop-off can be attributed to the new law, noting that four years ago there were two party primaries and a property tax measure on the ballot. ?To suggest the new elections law had a greater impact on voter registration than the election ballot itself is a leap of logic,? Mr. Cate told the Times.

A number of groups are challenging the Florida elections law in court, including the ACLU and the Brennan Center for Justice.

The New York Times is reporting that voter registration numbers are down in Florida compared to 2008, the last presidential election year — an outcome predicted by critics of Florida's controversial elections law when it was passed in 2011.

According to the paper's analysis, 81,471 fewer Floridians have registered to vote since the law took effect last July than during the same period four years ago.

The story reports that there are reasons besides the new law for the lower number. For example, in 2008 many Floridians were interested in the Democratic primary between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, whereas this year there was no Democratic primary.

But the strongest reason to suspect diminished registrations is the fact that the League of Women Voters has decided not to participate in registering voters for the first time in 72 years. The reason? The organization fears it could face severe penalties, per the new law, if registration forms are turned in late.

(The new law requires groups to turn in voter registration forms within 48 hours; in the past, such groups had 10 days to turn in the forms. A failure to meet the 48-hour deadline can result in fines ranging from $50 to $1,000 per applicant.)

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