House Bill 1355 was an omnibus elections bill that contained numerous changes to Florida elections laws. It was passed by the Legislature during the 2011 legislative session and was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.
The provisions of the law include placing new reporting requirements on third-party voter registration organizations, which subject groups such as the League of Women Voters of Florida to fines if they do not turn in completed voter registration forms within 48 hours. The law requires groups that register voters to sign up with the state and list officers and the names and addresses of all members who will be registering voters. It requires anyone who is registering voters to swear an oath to uphold state election laws. The law also shortens the number of days allowed for early voting from 14 to 8. The law prohibits voters who live outside the county in which they are registered from changing their address at the polls and requires that these voters cast a provisional ballot.
The League worked hard to defeat this legislation and remains strongly opposed to the provisions of the new law. The League participated in press events and prepped members of both the House and Senate with questions and talking points for debate. The League was successful in helping mount a spirited debate in the House with an eye toward laying the groundwork for a future legal challenge to the third-party voter registration section of the law. The League successfully challenged similar legislation that was passed in 2005.
On May 31, 2012 Judge Robert Hinkle of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Florida blocked enforcement of key provisions of Florida’s controversial election law, HB1355, which places onerous restrictions on community-based voter registration drives. “Together speech and voting are constitutional rights of special significance; they are the rights most protective of all others, joined in this respect by the ability to vindicate one’s rights in a federal court…[W]hen a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever,” Hinkle wrote in his opinion blocking most of the Florida law. “And allowing responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives — thus making it easier for citizens to register and vote — promotes democracy.”
On June 6, 2012 the League of Women Voters of Florida announced that it would resume voter registration.
During the 2013 session, after heavy lobbying by the League and other voting rights groups, the Florida legislature passed legislation to reform our state’s elections process by: increasing the allowable time period for early voting, adding additional early voting sites and limiting the length of legislatively-written constitutional amendment summaries.
FEDERAL ACTION ALERT: The League of Women Voters continues to work in coalition with national partners to analyze the recent Supreme Court ruling which gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). Charting a path to restoring the VRA to full effectiveness will involve work at both the federal and state level. We are looking at a variety of solutions with an eye to insuring that any action we take is effective and politically viable. But while we continue to explore specific solutions, there is important work to do now to build support for repairing the VRA and to block anti-voter initiatives in the states.
Recently, hearings were held in Congress on the VRA. The League has called on them to move swiftly to restore the VRA. Please consider using this template Letter to the Editor to call on Congress to respond to the Court’s devastating decision and restore the VRA. As you submit the letter to newspapers in your state, consider partnering with another organization in your community or possibly a Member of Congress if that might help get the letter published. Remind the media of the upcoming 48th anniversary of the VRA on August 6, 2013 as an additional news hook.
DONATE to the League of Women Voters of Florida Advocacy Fund to help us continue our fight for voting rights in the Sunshine State.
To view a report on the impact on HB1355 on the 2012 general election, please click here.
Visit our Speakers Bureau page to view the League’s current presentation on Election Reform in Florida.