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Regarding Court Ruling that Florida's "No Match, No Vote" Statute Does Not Violaate Federal Law PDF Print Email
By ProjectVote   
April 06, 2008
Advancement Project, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, and Project Vote are disappointed with a ruling in a Florida voting case issued yesterday from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, but made clear their determination to press forward with the lawsuit. The ruling, in part, reversed a Florida federal trial court’s decision that blocked a Florida state law prohibiting applicants from registering to vote if the state cannot match or otherwise validate the driver’s license or Social Security number on a registration form.

In September 2007, Plaintiffs, the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, and Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Gainesville, Florida to challenge the Florida law as violating both federal statutory law and the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs showed that this error-laden matching process kept voters off the registration rolls for reasons unrelated to their eligibility—such as typos in their names or having a hyphenated or non-traditional spelling of a common name—and disproportionately affected African-American and Latino applicants, among other minority communities.

In December 2007, the trial court held that Florida’s law conflicts with both the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and blocked enforcement of the law. As a result of that ruling, more than 14,000 eligible voters were added to the voter rolls. Since then, many more thousands of voters have been able to register without the Florida law as a barrier.

“Yesterday’s ruling by the appellate court represents a setback for all eligible Floridians, particularly voters of color, who wish to register to vote and participate in the upcoming presidential elections,” said Elizabeth Westfall of Advancement Project, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs. Added Justin Levitt, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, “The court’s ruling does not, however, end the case. The trial court must now consider whether disenfranchising thousands of eligible citizens because of typos, is consistent with the U.S. constitution.”

“This is not the only pending case against Secretary Browning that challenges unnecessary restrictions on the right to register to vote,” said Brian Mellor, Senior Counsel for Project Vote. “We hope that Secretary Browning will protect the rights of voters, and organizations that conduct voter registration, and we remain hopeful that we can resolve these cases, in favor of all Florida citizens, well before the upcoming elections.”

The plaintiffs are represented in the case by The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law; Advancement Project; Project Vote; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; and Greenberg Traurig LLP.
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