by Jeff Gore
The League of Women Voters of Florida, a 72 year-old "nonpartisan political organization" with 30 chapters in the state, announced today that it would cease voter registration if House Bill 1355, passed this legislative session, is signed into law by Governor Rick Scott.
The legislation, which clocks in at 158 pages (and takes 17 just to summarize), places a host of new restrictions on third-party voter registration organizations (like the League), among them mandating the tracking of individual registration forms and calling for a " fine in the amount of $500 for each application collected by a third-party voter registration organization or any person, entity, or agent acting on its behalf, which is not submitted to the division or supervisor of elections."
The bill's purported aim is to reduce electoral fraud, and true, Florida had its fair share of electoral infamy back in the 2000 presidential election. But League president Deirdre Macnab argues that Florida has come a long way since then, and the fraud angle is really just a red herring. "We have an electoral system that is working, and working well," says Macnab. "So despite the legislature saying they would be focusing on jobs, jobs, jobs, they spent an enormous amount of time on a punitive set of regulations which addresses a problem that doesn't exist."
Given the steep fines for not complying with the new voter registration law, Macnab says the League made its decision partly because it would rather not subject volunteers--some of whom are high schoolers--to such high-stakes pressure. "We didn’t feel that we could ask our volunteers to putt themselves in a situation where they would have to be personally and financially responsible for penalties levied against them by the attorney general," she says.