Judge blocks new Florida election law, signed by DeSantis this spring, calling it the 'latest assault on the right to vote'

woman pointing at clipbboard held by man that says "register to vote" on the back of it
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  • A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of a new election law in Florida.

  • The law imposed new limits on voter registration and get-out-the-vote operations.

  • The judge said those provisions likely violate the US Constitution.

Calling it Florida's "latest assault on the right to vote," a federal judge on Monday put a temporary hold on a new election law that would have imposed more limits on voter registration efforts.

In May, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 7050, a package of Republican-sponsored reforms to Florida's election system, including a ban on non-citizen immigrants helping register voters. Groups that retained certain voter registration information, such as for get-out-the-vote operations, could under the law also face felony prosecution.

In a blistering decision, US Judge Mark Walker of the Northern District of Florida, agreed with plaintiffs that such provisions are likely illegal.

"Florida may, of course, regulate elections, including the voter registration process," Walker, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, wrote in the 58-page ruling. "Here, however, the challenged provisions exemplify something Florida has struggled within recent years; namely, governing within the bounds set by the United States Constitution."

The Florida chapter of the NAACP, one of the groups that sued over the law, had argued that the ban on retaining any voter information violated the First Amendment right to free speech by preventing them from sharing a "pro-voting message." Critics also argued that the limit on non-citizen participation on registration drives violated the right to equal protection under federal law.

A spokesperson for Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, named as a defendant in the case, declined to comment.

Walker, in his ruling, noted that the decision is not final. But he nonetheless framed the ruling in grand, patriotic terms, noting it came a day before the country recognizes its independence. In particular, he highlighted one plaintiff, Veronica Herrera-Lucha, an immigrant from El Salvador who has permanent residency in the US and works as the the Florida field director for a voter registration group, Mi Vecino.

"Herrera-Lucha, a noncitizen who, herself, lacks the right to vote, has spent years registering and encouraging citizens to exercise that solemn right," Walker wrote. "She may, at least for now, continue to do so and add more voices to the millions of others signing a more perfect Union into existence."

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