TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Voting and immigrants’ rights advocates filed a federal lawsuit today challenging a new Florida law, SB 7050, that targets community-based organizations performing voter registration.
The case specifically focuses on the law’s non-citizen provision, which would impose a $50,000 fine on an organization for each non-citizen person who “collects” or “handles” voter registration forms on the organization’s behalf. This would almost certainly put out of business a great number of community-based groups that rely on a combination of citizens and non-citizens as staff and volunteers for their voter registration programs.
The provision’s restrictions also target lawful permanent residents, many of whom have longtime, close ties to the communities in which they reside.
The lawsuit, which hones in on SB 7050’s chilling effect on political speech, civic engagement, and the unconstitutional exclusion of non-citizens from these activities, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Florida, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Dēmos, and Arnold & Porter on behalf of the Hispanic Federation, Poder Latinx, and individual clients. It cites violations of the First and 14th Amendments.
The following comments are from:
Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project: “This law is a clear attack on civic engagement and participation in our democratic process. It’s also discriminatory and unconstitutional. It will arbitrarily exclude all non-citizens — including longtime lawful permanent residents — from registering voters eligible to participate in our democracy. Its effect on our clients and the communities they live in and serve will be devastating. It cannot be allowed to stand.”
Our clients have been empowering the communities they serve through civic engagement for years. This law is a brazen attempt to shut down that powerful work by preventing non-citizens from assisting with voter registration efforts in their communities.
Estee M. Konor, associate director of litigation at Dēmos: “All Floridians — including non-citizens — have the right to participate in the work of building a better democracy through civic engagement. Our clients have been empowering the communities they serve through civic engagement for years. This law is a brazen attempt to shut down that powerful work by preventing non-citizens from assisting with voter registration efforts in their communities. Non-citizens are part of our communities, part of the body politic, and have a stake in political decisions that are made.”
Lourdes Rosado, president and general counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF: “Floridians who are simply trying to help others partake in their civic duty to vote are being penalized for their actions or barred from helping register voters because of where they were born. It is clear that SB 7050 is designed to discriminate against non-citizens and to undermine the ability of Latino civic organizations to do their jobs. Our challenge to this law aims to protect our communities’ rights to free association and to be free from discrimination.”
Daniel Tilley, legal director of the ACLU of Florida: “This law is yet another state-imposed obstruction to the promise of Amendment 4. This law will disproportionately impact Black and Hispanic voters who are much more likely to register to vote with community groups than white voters. Simply put, this law is bad for democracy.”
John A. Freedman, Arnold & Porter’s senior pro bono counsel: “Our nation’s armed forces have entrusted Dreamers and legal permanent residents to defend this country against enemies of democracy. But the state of Florida stands alone in prohibiting immigrants from helping our citizens register to vote. We are proud to stand with our clients and co-counsel to vindicate the rights of immigrants to help strengthen our democracy.”
The lawsuit, Hispanic Federation v. Byrd, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee.