(Bloomberg) -- A group of civil rights organizations are challenging a new Florida voting law that they claim violates the Constitution by making it harder for Blacks and Latinos to participate in the 2024 presidential election.
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The law, championed by Governor Ron DeSantis, illegally restricts the activities of third-party voter registration groups that have helped hundreds of thousands of Florida residents register since 2018, according to a pair of lawsuits filed Wednesday and Thursday in federal court in Tallahassee.
The groups say the law will chill their activities by imposing harsh fines for registration applications that are returned late and barring noncitizen volunteers from handling applications. It also criminalizes “routine voter information retention,” according to the suits.
People of color are five times more likely than White residents in Florida to register to vote with help from a third-party organization, the groups say in one of the complaints adding that there “is no question which Floridians will be most affected by these efforts.”
DeSantis signed the statute into law on Wednesday, the same day he made official his plan to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president in the 2024 election. Republicans have been passing similar laws across the US purporting to prevent election fraud, while critics say they’re aimed at making it harder for Democrats to vote.
The governor’s office didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.
The lawsuit names dozens of county election officials as well as Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd and the state’s attorney general, Ashley Moody.
“We have not been served,” Kylie Mason, a spokeswoman for Moody, said in an email. Byrd’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The complaints, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Democrat-aligned Elias Law Group LLP, claim the the law known as Senate Bill 7050 violates the First Amendment right to free speech, the right of association and the federal Voting Rights Act.
The case is Florida State Conference of Branches and Youth Units of the NAACP v. Byrd, 4:23-cv-00215, US District Court for the Northern District of Florida (Tallahassee).
(Updates with second lawsuit)
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