Some Groups Thinking Twice About Registering Voters

By Tim Leljedal
5:10pm August 16, 2006

The League of Women Voters and people for the American Way registered thousands of people in the 2004 elections, but now they face harsh penalties if the new rules aren’t followed.

You aren’t seeing as many voter registration drives like this one because of a new law that slaps hefty fines on so-called third party groups if they don’t follow strict rules on turning in the registration forms.

Democrat and Republican voter registration efforts are not subject to the new law. Reggie Mitchell with People for the American way says it’s almost like the state wants to make it as tough as possible on anyone outside the establishment.

Reggie Mitchell of People For The American Way said, "This particular law seems to be designed to have the chilling effect that it does, in that there are no exceptions and it’s almost designed to get at third-party groups to stop them from doing voter registration."

Florida election officials say the new law is not intended to unfairly punish any particular group; it’s to protect peoples’ right to vote. Supporters cite examples from 2004, when liberal-leaning political groups from out-of-state flooded Florida to sign up tens of thousands of voters.

Dawn Roberts with the Division of Elections says some of those registration forms sat in piles for weeks, missing deadlines and in some cases not getting submitted at all, and that's not fair to the voter.

"They have an expectation that that application is going to be handled properly and submitted in a timely manner when in fact sometimes they weren’t."

The League of Women Voters has sued over the new law, but the state says it will continue to enforce it unless a judge decides it’s unfair.