National Council of La Raza, LWV of Florida File in Court to Stop Anti-Voter Restrictions in Florida

September 9, 2011

Groups Represented by Co-Counsel Brennan Center for Justice, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Bryan Cave LLP

For Immediate Release: September 9, 2011

Please Contact:

Camila Gallardo

National Council of La Raza


Deirdre Macnab

League of Women Voters of Florida


Andrew Goldston

Brennan Center for Justice


Stacie Royster

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law


Nicole Summer

Bryan Cave LLP

212.576.2700 x255

Washington, DC – Today, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the League of Women Voters of Florida, organizations that work to encourage and promote civic engagement among Florida voters filed an intervention motion in federal court in Washington, D.C. to oppose controversial new restrictions on voting and voter registration imposed by a new Florida law, known as H.B. 1355. The groups argue the law will erect unnecessary barriers to voting and voter registration and will disproportionately harm Florida’s minority voters. The two groups are represented by attorneys with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, working in partnership with pro bono counsel from leading law firm Bryan Cave LLP.

The groups’ objections focus on three key changes contained in the new law:

  1. The law will restrict the opportunity and ability of citizens and grassroots organizations to conduct voter registration drives, which disproportionately register African-American  and Hispanic Floridians to vote;
  2. The law will reduce the number of days in the state’s early voting period, and eliminate the option of voting on the Sunday before an election – a day with a high level of minority turnout; and
  3. The law will make it impossible for registered voters who have recently moved between Florida counties to provide notice of their change of address on Election Day and still cast a regular ballot, placing a burden on voters who tend to move more frequently, including low-income and minority voters.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, changes to Florida's election laws must be “pre-cleared” by the United States Department of Justice or through a lawsuit in the D.C. federal court. The State of Florida originally submitted these new voting changes to the Justice Department for review.  NCLR, the League of Women Voters, the Brennan Center, and the Lawyers’ Committee joined forces to submit detailed comments to the Department demonstrating that the changes will reduce opportunities for voting and substantially restrict voter registration, disproportionately harming Florida’s minority voters.

Florida subsequently withdrew those provisions from Justice Department review and filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C. seeking a declaratory judgment that the changes in the law were unobjectionable under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, prompting today's filing from NCLR and the League of Women Voters of Florida.

“This law comes precisely a time when Hispanics have really begun to realize their voting power and exercise their influence in determining the outcomes of elections at the local, state, and national level.  We need to create avenues and open doors to that participation, not create unfair rules that simply serve to disenfranchise Hispanics from a process they deserve to have a voice in,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at NCLR.  “We hope the Justice Department realizes the long term detrimental impact this law would have not just in Florida but in setting a dangerous trend around the nation.”

“We are joining this court action to oppose Florida’s anti-voter law, which is a step backward for civil rights,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “We want to ensure that the court understands that this law has very real and harmful impacts on Florida voters, and particularly on our state's minority voters.”

“We want to ensure that the court sees all the evidence and information available about the impacts of Florida’s anti-voter law, which is unfair to voters, serves no legitimate purpose, and disproportionately hurts Florida’s minorities,” said Lee Rowland, Democracy Counsel with the Brennan Center.

“It is important for groups such as NCLR and the League of Women Voters to directly provide the federal court with their on-the-ground experiences demonstrating that Florida’s voting changes will bear more heavily upon minority citizens,” said Robert Kengle, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project.

“We at Bryan Cave are proud to assist both the National Council of La Raza and the League of Women Voters of Florida in their effort to demonstrate to the federal district court the pernicious and discriminatory effects of Florida's proposed election law changes,” said Daniel C. Schwartz, Partner at Bryan Cave.

If the voting rights groups prevail, the court will preclude Florida from implementing these controversial voting changes in the five Florida counties covered by the federal Voting Rights Act (Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe).


The Brennan Center team includes Lee Rowland and Wendy Weiser.

The Lawyers’ Committee team includes Robert Kengle and Mark Posner.

The Bryan Cave team includes Daniel C. Schwartz, Alec W. Farr, Rodney F. Page, Daniel T. O’Connor, and Ian L. Barlow.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact the individuals listed above.