Federal Judge Rules Florida Can’t Ban Non-Citizens From Registering Voters

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


A federal judge has remarkably ruled that Florida cannot enforce a law banning non-citizens from being able to register voters in the state ahead of the 2024 election.

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker, an Obama appointee, ruled on Friday that a provision in Florida’s SB 7050 that levied a $50,000 fine for each noncitizen found to be “collecting or handling voter registration applications” violated equal protection rights under the Constitution. As NBC News reported, the ban also applied to people with legal permanent residency or green cards.

The outlet said that there are around 1.3 million lawful permanent residents who call Florida home, citing Department of Homeland Security statistics. “Many of them often engage in civic activities such as help with voter registration or supporting campaigns as part of their journeys to become U.S. citizens or to learn about U.S. government,” NBC News noted further.

Last year, an emergency injunction barred Florida from enforcing the law, which allowed organizations seeking to register voters to retain non-citizens as part of their field staff.

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They were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and four other legal organizations.

Frankie Miranda, the president and CEO of the Hispanic Federation, and Yadira Sánchez, the executive director of Poder Latinx, celebrated the judge’s decision in a joint statement Friday.

“This victory continues to allow legal residents and others who have called Florida home for decades to continue helping their U.S. citizen family, neighbors, and friends register to vote,” Miranda said.

Sánchez added, per NBC: “We will continue to play a pivotal role in our communities, especially in mobilizing individuals to actively participate in our civic duties, thereby contributing significantly to our collective progress.”

The outlet added that legal permanent residents must wait five years to become voting citizens.

Earlier, Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd sought Walker’s recusal from the case, arguing that he “appears to have a closed mind” regarding Florida’s attempts to add layers of ballot integrity to its voting processes.

CBS News reported that Byrd’s office pointed “to parts of a ruling he issued Feb. 8 in a separate court battle about a 2021 elections law,” where he issued a judgment favoring the state following the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ reversal of a prior decision in which he had determined that the 2021 law unfairly discriminated against black voters.

In his ruling, however, the judge also wrote that Florida “has, with surgical precision, repeatedly changed Florida’s election code to target whichever modality of voting Florida’s Black voters were using at the time. That was not this court’s opinion – it is a fact established by the record in these cases (involving the 2021 law). Even so, following the state of Florida’s appeal, this persistent and pernicious practice of targeting the modalities of voting most used by Florida’s Black voters has apparently received the stamp of approval in this (11th) Circuit.”

Despite the accusations that the GOP-enacted law seeks to disenfranchise black and Hispanic voters, President Joe Biden and Democrats are shedding Latino voters to former President Donald Trump and Republicans, according to a recent survey.

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“Sunday’s Fox News poll also found Biden’s support slipping among black and Hispanic voters. He won 66 percent of black voters, while 28 percent said they would vote for Trump. Meanwhile, Hispanic voters were nearly split, with 49 percent backing Biden and 48 percent saying they plan to vote for Trump,” Newsweek noted.

Biden is also currently grappling with questions regarding his declining support among young voters, a demographic that generally leans progressive but has encountered problems with some of Biden’s policies.

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