A federal judge declares that Florida cannot prohibit noncitizens from registering voters

Latino and civil rights groups scored a significant win when a federal judge invalidated a provision in a Florida state law that aimed to prevent noncitizens from registering voters for the 2024 election.

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker ruled on Friday that a provision in Florida’s SB 7050, which imposes a $50,000 fine on noncitizens involved in voter registration activities, is in violation of constitutional equal protection rights. The ban included individuals with legal permanent residency or green cards.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are approximately 1.3 million lawful permanent residents residing in Florida. Many of these individuals actively participate in civic activities, such as assisting with voter registration and supporting political campaigns, as a means of familiarizing themselves with the U.S. government and as part of their journey towards becoming U.S. citizens.

Last year, Florida was blocked from enforcing a state law that allowed organizations to keep field staff members who were noncitizens, thanks to an emergency injunction.

According to the Hispanic Federation, a national Latino advocacy organization, voter registrations through third-party groups in Florida have been declining since 2021 due to the implementation of voter restriction laws.

On Friday, Walker made his decision in response to a federal lawsuit that was filed last year by the Hispanic Federation and Poder Latinx, a progressive group focused on registering and mobilizing Latino voters. The lawsuit also involved three noncitizen plaintiffs.

The American Civil Liberties Union and four other legal organizations represented them.

Frankie Miranda, president and CEO of the Hispanic Federation, along with Yadira Sánchez, executive director of Poder Latinx, expressed their joy over the judge’s decision in a joint statement released on Friday.

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According to Miranda, this win enables long-term residents and other individuals who have been living in Florida for many years to keep assisting their U.S. citizen family members, neighbors, and friends in the voter registration process.

Sánchez emphasized the importance of playing a pivotal role in our communities, particularly in mobilizing individuals to actively participate in their civic duties. This active engagement is crucial in contributing significantly to our collective progress.

Lawful permanent residents typically need to wait for a period of five years before they can qualify to become United States citizens.

The Florida secretary of state’s office will no longer be able to enforce provisions in state law that prevent noncitizens from participating in voter registration efforts, following the judge’s decision on Friday.

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