Florida’s chief election officer sued over uninformative voter registration applications

Groups allege state violated National Voter Registration Act

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd is the sole defendant in a federal lawsuit announced Wednesday that challenges the state’s uniform voter registration application.

The suit seeks that a federal court declare Florida’s voter registration violates the National Voter Registration Act, citing poor or non-existent informative materials which would serve to clarify whether individuals convicted of felonies are eligible to vote given unique circumstances. It’s being brought by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Inc., League of Women Voters of Florida Education Fund, Inc. and the Florida State Conference of Branches and Youth Units of the NAACP as plaintiffs.

The lawsuit also seeks that the registrations be improved, asking that the state develop a “voter registration application that is the same in content, format, and size as the uniform statewide voter registration application prescribed under s. 97.052.”

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In 2018, Florida voters passed Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to felons who paid their dues and were not convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses.

News 6 has followed the issue of felons’ voting rights, now at a quicker pace following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ announcement in August last year that election fraud charges would hit 20 arrestees whom the state’s Office of Election Crimes and Security had investigated. By month’s end, we had spoken with Peter Washington — who was arrested and accused of voter fraud despite being sent a voter registration card — showing his story to Orange County’s outgoing elections supervisor Bill Cowles.

“It’s hard for them to find a database that can answer their question about whether their rights have been restored,” Cowles told News 6.


59-year-old Peter Washington was among the 20 people arrested on accusations of illegally voting in the 2020 election. However, Washington said his rights had been restored.

That’s part of the issue this lawsuit concerns, claiming the language of the state’s uniform voter registration does not inform “individuals convicted of a statutorily enumerated murder or felony sexual offenses in Florida that they are not eligible to vote unless they have had their right to vote restored through the clemency process.”

The suit additionally seeks that felons are notified in the application that they cannot vote in Florida unless they’ve “completed all terms of sentence, including probation, parole, and community control, and have paid disqualifying legal financial obligations,” claiming applicants unsure of their voting rights status may be “chilled” into not participating.

All of this would be contrary to the current model of the registration form (EXHIBIT A), which asks only that applicants check a box stating “I affirm that I am not a convicted felon, or if I am, my right to vote has been restored.”

Read the lawsuit below:

See EXHIBIT A below:

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About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.