A federal judge on Wednesday said he was prepared to grant a permanent injunction that would block controversial restrictions on voter registration groups passed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) last year.
Federal Judge Robert L. Hinkle had earlier put a temporary hold on the measure, declaring that it put "harsh and impractical" restrictions on civic groups focused on registering new voters. In his latest order, Hinkle stated that he intends to permanently block the law, pending the case's dismissal from a Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs and the state of Florida have reportedly agreed not to appeal Hinkle's ruling.
“This order is a decisive victory for Florida voters,” said Lee Rowland of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, one of the attorneys who argued the case for the plaintiffs, in a statement. “The Florida legislature has tried repeatedly to stifle access to voter registration opportunities, and once again a federal court has stopped them in their tracks. We are thrilled that voter registration groups can now get back to what they do best -- expanding our democracy.”
The Florida Times-Union reported earlier this week that voter registration groups had largely shut down their operations in the wake of the new strictures, a trend that has done serious damage to registration trends of Democratic voters.
According to the Times-Union's review of state records, in the lead-up to elections in 2004 and 2008, the 13-month period between July 1 and August 1 of election year showed an average increase in registered Democrats of 209,425 voters. Over the same time between 2011 to 2012, registered Democrats increased by only 11,365 voters. It's easily enough to swing the election.
“It has without a doubt hurt registration numbers,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Florida. “It really gummed up the works and made it harder for Floridians to get registered.”
The Department of Justice has also mounted a separate challenge against Florida's new voter laws, claiming that they violate the Voting Rights Act with their new limitations on early voting and third-party voter registration groups.