In advance of a public hearing on April 20, 2023, LDF sent a letter opposing S.B. 7050, a harmful voting bill that would likely diminish the voting rights of voters of color in Florida. S.B. 7050 builds on a harmful elections bill passed last year that established the “Office of Election Crimes and Security,” a law enforcement entity with the power to conduct investigations into alleged voting irregularities. S.B. 7050 subjects community-based voter registration to onerous financial penalties for mistakes or oversights. This change could expose such groups—who provide a critical service to Florida voters, and especially for voters of color—to exorbitant fines, chilling their engagement in constitutionally protected activities. In particular, inaccurate information or errors on forms provided by voters could lead to significant penalties—for example, if one or more voters misidentified their home address, an organization might incur a $500 penalty for each such error if, on the basis of incorrect information provided by the voter, they submit those voters’ applications to a county other than “the county in which the applicant resides.”
The bill makes a potentially confusing change to the intent standard for a felony offense related to boring more than once in an election, risking intimidation and chilling effects for voters who fear being prosecuted for making innocent mistakes. The vague nature of the language could be read as lowering the bar for convictions of double voting and could lead voters to believe that people will end up in prison simply for attempting to do what they believed was their civic duty. This change to the statute again raises additional concerns under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which prohibit racial discrimination in voting as Black voters in the state have been disproportionally arrested for election crimes.
Read the full letter here.
Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.