SB 7050: Why the League of Women Voters, other orgs are suing Florida over new law

Brenno Carillo
The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Immediately after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7050 into law Wednesday, several voting advocacy groups filed lawsuits challenging the state.

One of these groups, the League of Women Voters, criticized the bill, which the organization argues “would restrict and penalize basic nonpartisan civic engagement efforts.”

The League of Women Voters is “a nonpartisan, grassroots organization working to protect and expand voting rights and ensure everyone is represented in our democracy,” according to its website.

The national organization offers voter registration, election information and sponsors local candidate forums and debates across the country.

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Celina Stewart, chief counsel and senior director of advocacy and litigation for the League of Women Voters of the U.S., said: “Communities across the nation rely on nonpartisan organizations like the League of Women Voters to navigate the voting process.”

The lawsuits (which include the Florida NAACP, Voters of Tomorrow Action, Disability Rights Florida and other plaintiffs) claim SB 7050 is unconstitutional and violates the First and 14th amendments.

The law reduces the amount of time these organizations have to submit voter registration applications and establishes new, higher fines for late submissions.

Rep. Lawrence McClure, R-Dover, a bill sponsor, said one of its purposes is to hold voter registration organizations to high standards, protecting voters’ personal information.

League of Women Voters of Florida President Cecile Scoon called SB 7050 “yet another assault on democracy and attempt to muzzle Floridians,” in a press release.

Here is what the new law proposes and what voter registration groups are saying.

What is SB 7050 and what does it propose?

SB 7050 targets and changes the way third-party voter registration organizations operate during election cycles.

It requires that these organizations provide the Florida Division of Elections with certain “affirmations,” which would essentially ban noncitizens and people with felony records to collect or handle voter registration applications.

If that happens, organizations are hit with a $50,000 fine.

The law also changes the amount of time these organizations have to submit the registrations to the division: 10 days, instead of the previously required 14 days.

“A fine in the amount of $50 per each day late, up to $2,500, for each application received by the division or the supervisor of elections in the county in which the applicant resides” will be issued if the registrations are received after that timeframe, the law says.

Depending on the number of violations an organization commits, they could be fined up to $250,000, according to the law.

Among the law’s other additions to the process is requiring that organizations provide voter registration applicants with a receipt detailing that voter’s personal information.

Why are the League of Women Voters and others pushing back?

When the Florida Senate passed the bill at the end of April, 36 voting and civil rights organizations wrote in a letter to legislative leadership that the proposed increased fines are "well beyond an amount that community-based organizations, many of whom rely on volunteers, can even begin to afford."

Opponents of SB 7050 also voiced concern about how it might affect the number of voters of color, low-income voters, voters with disabilities and young voters who register with the help of these organizations.

Florida House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell brought forth this concern, saying “Black and brown voters are far more likely than white voters to get registered by a third-party voter registration organization."

According to a study conducted in 2021 by Daniel A. Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Florida, voters of color in Florida are five times more likely to register to vote through nonpartisanthird-party civicengagement organizations than white voters in the state.