The Southern Poverty Law Center and Fair Elections Center filed a lawsuit to challenge a Florida law that, among other things, required groups engaged in voter registration activities to provide misleading information to voters that the organization “might not” submit the voter’s registration application on time and to direct voters to the state’s online registration portal.
The law imposed this requirement even though Florida already has some of the most onerous third-party voter registration laws in the country, imposes hefty penalties on groups that do not return voter registration forms on time and has not had significant issues with untimely applications submitted by these groups.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters, Corp., a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that focuses its registration efforts on new voters, particularly youth, communities of color and returning citizens.
The complaint challenged the law’s misleading disclaimer and disclosure requirements. It alleged that the new law is void for vagueness under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, compels speech in violation of the First Amendment and prevented organizations from exercising their First Amendment rights of expression and association.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida found on March 31, 2022, that the law infringed on the right to free speech by forcing organizations to make false claims to potential voters while trying to help them register. Ruling in three cases consolidated with the lawsuit, the court mandated that Florida seek pre-clearance from the Department of Justice for the next 10 years for changes to voting laws that would restrict drop boxes, voting by mail, third- party voter registration organizations, or assisting other voters.