Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a sweeping election bill into law that opponents say will harm Florida voters. File Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI | License Photo
May 25 (UPI) -- On the day Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his candidacy for U.S. president, the Republican signed into law an omnibus election bill that attracted litigation from organizations who accuse the legislation of being voter suppression.
Prior to announcing his presidential campaign Wednesday, DeSantis signed into law 20 pieces of legislation, including Senate Bill 7050, which, along with paving the way for him to run for the nation's highest office without stepping down as governor, includes sweeping changes to election laws affecting civil and voting rights groups.
The bill, which passed both the state Senate and House along party lines late last month, imposes restrictions affecting third-party voter registration organizations, such as limiting who, when and what kind of work they can do under threat of hefty fines.
After the bill was signed, a lawsuit from the League of Women Voters of Florida, the NAACP and other pro-voting organizations was filed, accusing the state of violating there right to freedom of speech and association.
"Instead of celebrating civic engagement groups for their work to encourage participation in our democracy, Florida legislators restricted and penalized basic voter outreach efforts," Paul Smith, senior vice president at Campaign Legal Center, which is representing the League of Women Voters of Florida in the lawsuit, said in a statement.
"This action will directly harm members of historically marginalized communities -- including voters of color, low-income voters, voters with disabilities and young voters -- who rely on these nonpartisan efforts to help make their voices heard."
In the lawsuit, the coalition of voting rights groups argue that by targeting these third-party voter registration organizations, the legislation is restricting voting by historically disenfranchised communities, especially Black and Latinx populations.
"[P]eople of color are five times more likely than White Floridians to register with the assistance of a 3PVRO," the lawsuit states, adding that the bill is "voter suppression" aimed at ensuring only certain people get to cast their ballots.
Cecile Scoon, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, described the bill as "yet another assault on democracy and attempt to muzzle Floridians."
"Florida seems intent on making the act of voting nerve-racking," Scoon said in a statement. "We are forced to turn to the courts to ensure nonpartisan community-based voter registration organizations, like the League, can continue their important work of registering voters and ensure voters have equal and meaningful access to the ballot box."
The lawsuit asks the court to have the challenged provisions declared unlawful and enjoin them from being enforced.