Voting rights groups sue Florida official after election fraud cases

Florida’s voter registration form violates federal law, lawsuit claims

The Florida chapters of two national organizations have filed a lawsuit against Florida’s secretary of state.

The League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida State Conference of the NAACP are suing over the state’s voter registration form, which they said violates federal law.

It comes after the state’s election police arrested 20 people, including some here in Central Florida, for voting illegally.

The lawsuit specifically mentions people with felony convictions, or “returning citizens,” who were arrested after being allowed to register to vote and being sent voter registration cards.

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Florida’s voter registration application violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the lawsuit alleges.

In 1993, when President Clinton signed the National Voter Registration Act, also known as the Motor Voter Law, Becky Kain, then president of the League of Women Voters, was standing with him, along with the NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Chavis.

“Today we celebrate our noble tradition by signing into law our newest civil rights law, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993,” President Clinton said before signing the bill.

Thirty years later, the Florida chapters of both organizations are now suing Florida’s Secretary of State Cord Byrd for allegedly violating the act.

Cecile Scoon is the President of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

“The application is in the flow of what we consider voter suppression,” Scoon said in an interview with News 6. “The phraseology is very, very basic, very unclear.”

The lawsuit claims that the application “fails to meet the National Voter Registration Act’s basic minimum standards for informing potential voters about Florida’s complicated eligibility requirements.”

“People don’t understand what they should do,” Scoon said.

Florida’s voter registration application asks potential voters to affirm, “I am not a convicted felon or if I am my right to vote has been restored,” according to the application.

Florida’s voter registration application was enacted in 2012, but in 2018, voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4, which automatically restored the rights of most felons.

But the application does not “specify that for most felonies in Florida, returning citizens’ rights are automatically restored upon completion of all terms of their sentence,” according to the lawsuit.

Furthermore, it does not “specify that returning citizens convicted of murder or felony sex offenses can only have their rights restored through the clemency process,” according to the lawsuit.

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.

“So having the application state more specifically what needs to be done and where you go to get those answers would be much better,” Scoon said.

The lawsuit points to the arrests of people with felony convictions who were allowed to register to vote and received an official voter information card “which constitutes notice of approval of registration,” according to the lawsuit.

Scoon said her concern is that if the application is not cleared up, that more people could end up being prosecuted for voting.

“Absolutely,” she said.

Byrd filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying Florida’s voter registration application is sufficient.

As soon as the court rules in this case, News 6 will let you know.

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About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.