LWV Florida filed a federal lawsuit challenging a state law, SB 7050, that imposed severe restrictions on voter registration activities by the League and its partners. Among the new regulations are limitations on who may register voters, increased administrative burdens, including re-registering with the state before every election cycle, and significant increases in fines for violations.
The League of Women Voters of Florida (“LWV Florida”) filed a federal lawsuit on May 24, 2023, asserting new restrictions on third-party voter registration organizations (“3PVROs”) were substantially overbroad and vague and violated its First Amendment rights to free speech and association.
These provisions, enacted by the Florida legislature as part of Senate Bill 7050 (“SB 7050”) imposed numerous new requirements and restrictions on 3PVROs’ voter registration activities. Under SB 7050, non-citizens and persons convicted of certain felonies are forbidden from “handling or collecting” voter registration applications ("felony and non-citizen volunteer restrictions").
Voter registration organizations like the League are also required to re-register with the Division of Elections for every general election cycle. As part of the process, 3PVROs must list the names and addresses of every League member assisting others with voter registration. Each listed member may not have been convicted of a specified felony offence. The League could potentially be fined $50,000 per individual who was convicted of an applicable felony and collects or handles voter registration applications on its behalf.
Taken together, these requirements effectively force 3PVROs to conduct background checks on volunteers’ citizenship and past convictions when conducting voter registration to avoid being fined. The League asserted these requirements would severely burden and curtail its voter registration activities.
Voter registration organizations are also required to provide every applicant for voter registration a receipt including their name, the date their application was received, the name of the organization conducting voter registration, name of the registration agent, the applicant’s political party affiliation, and the county of their residence ("receipt requirement"). At the same time, SB 7050 forbids anyone collecting voter registration application forms for a 3PVRO from retaining a voter’s ‘personal information’ without fully defining the term. Violation of this rule is a third-degree felony ("voter information restriction").
SB 7050 also requires voter registration organizations to return applications within ten days after they are completed by applicants, a reduction from the current fourteen days. Applications may not be returned after the deadline for voter registration for the next upcoming election. Violation of the provision subjects the organizations to financial penalties that could reach thousands of dollars. 3PRVOs that submit late applications can be fined up to $250,000 total, in aggregate.
The League is represented by Campaign Legal Center in this matter.
Florida legislature passes SB 7050
The Florida legislature passes SB 7050, which imposes substantial restrictions on the activities of voter registration organizations like the League, enforced by potential fines and criminal prosecution.
Governor DeSantis signs SB 7050
LWV Florida files lawsuit
The League of Women Voters of Florida files a lawsuit in federal court, asserting new restrictions on non-governmental entities’ voter registration activities are both substantially overbroad and vague and violate its First Amendment rights to free speech and free association.
LWV Florida moves for preliminary injunction
LWV Florida moves for a preliminary injunction against the felony and non-citizen volunteer restrictions, receipt requirement, and voter information restriction. The motion emphasizes that if the injunction is denied, the League's registration activities would be significantly impaired, due to the chilling effect caused by the volunteer restrictions and difficulty in complying with the voter information restriction and receipt requirement.
Court grants preliminary injunction in related cases
The court grants plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction in related lawsuits against SB 7050 brought by the Florida State Conference of Branches and Youth Units of the NAACP and Hispanic Federation. The injunction forbids enforcement of the non-citizen volunteer restrictions and voter information restriction.
Court denies motion for preliminary injunction
The court denies the League's motion for a preliminary injunction. The ruling states that, because the non-citizen volunteer restriction and voter information restriction were already enjoined in two other lawsuits against SB 7050, the League's motion was moot. The ruling also states LWV Florida lacks standing to receive a preliminary injunction against the receipt requirement and felony volunteer restriction.
Court consolidates cases
The court consolidates LWV Florida's case with a separate lawsuit brought by the Hispanic Federation.
Defendants appeal to Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
Defendants appeal the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
LWV Florida moves to intervene in appeal
LWV Florida files a motion to intervene in defendants' appeal of the preliminary injunction. The motion argues that while the League was effectively granted the relief it sought by the district court, the denial of its motion for a preliminary injunction as moot, and exclusion from the appeal, meant its interests were not being properly represented. LWV Florida asserted that the League's participation was necessary to ensure it could keep the preliminary injunction in place.
Circuit court denies motion for intervention
The circuit court of appeals denies LWV Florida's motion for intervention in a summary order.
LWV Florida files amicus brief
LWV Florida files an amicus brief, urging the circuit court to affirm the district court's ruling that the non-citizen volunteer restriction likely violates the Equal Protection Clause, and that the voter information restriction is likely unconstitutionally vague.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals holds oral argument
Courts grants summary judgment to defendants on handling ban
The court grants summary judgment to defendants, ruling the League does not have standing to challenge the ban on volunteers with certain felony convictions from handling or collecting voter registration applications.