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Litigation

League of Women Voters of Florida v. Cobb

Case Information

Date Filed / Ended: May 18, 2006 / February 19, 2008
State: Florida
Issue: Voter Registration
Courts that Heard this Case: United States District Court, Southern District of Florida (Case 06-21265-CIV-JORDAN); United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (Case 06-14836-DD)

Issue:

Whether regulations imposing fines on nonpartisan voter registration groups, but not on the state's political parties, for mishandling of voter registration applications violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Status:

Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction granted as to counts I, II, and III; Defendant's Motion to dismiss granted as to Count IV. Appellant Brief filed 10/26/06. Appellee Brief filed 12/4/06. Appellant's Reply Brief filed 12/29/06. Case submitted without argument (9/26/07). Motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction filed 4/3/08 and granted 4/24/08 because the laws being challenged by the suit were changed.

Case Summary

In this case Plaintiffs, private groups and an individual member of the League of Women Voters who wish to register citizens to vote, are challenging Florida's new regulations regarding the registration of voters, Fla. Stat. §§ 97.021(36) and 97.0575, as they claim these regulations impose overly burdensome fines and reporting requirements on all organizations, except the state's political parties, who wish to register people to vote. Any person or organization that violates these regulations is held strictly liable for the fines incurred; Plaintiffs allege that these fines are overly burdensome as they impose fines for even minor errors that may be beyond the organization's control and may force low income organizations into bankruptcy for such errors. Additionally, it is claimed that these regulations are discriminatory (they do not apply to the state's political parties and they disproportionately harm minority citizens that rely on nonpartisan organizations to register to vote) and are unjustified (there is no evidence that nonpartisan groups are more likely to mishandle voter registration applications; in fact, there is evidence to suggest that nonpartisan groups have more reliable procedures in place than the state political parties for handling voter registration applications).

As Plaintiffs claim these regulations impose overly burdensome fines and are discriminatory and unjustified, they are seeking a declaration that these regulations violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, both facially and as applied to Plaintiffs. They are also seeking an injunction preventing the enforcement of these voter registration laws.

District Court Documents

Court of Appeals Documents

  • Appellant Brief, by Allen C. Winsor PDF (filed 10/26/06)
  • Order [non-document] Over the Phone Extension to File Appellee's Brief Granted Until 12/4/2006 (entered 10/27/06)
  • Appellee Brief, by Craig Louis Siegel PDF (filed 12/5/06)
  • Appellant's Reply Brief PDF (filed 12/29/06)
  • Oral Argument Scheduled 5/23/07
  • Oral Argument Reset for week of 6/24/07 (entered 3/20/07)
  • Appellants Suggestion of Impending Mootness construed as Motion to Dismiss Appeal as Moot (entered 7/12/07)
  • Appellees' Response to Appellants' suggestion of impending mootness construed as a motion to dismiss appeal as moot (filed 7/26/07)
  • Appellants's Reply in support of suggestion of mootness construed as a motion to dismiss as moot (filed 8/6/07)
  • Case to be Submitted without Argument (entered 9/26/07)
  • Supplemental Authority for Appellant (filed 2/1/08)
  • Supplemental Authority of Appellee (filed 2/7/08)
  • APPEAL DISMISSED. . .Because the legislative amendments are now in effect, and the law preliminarily enjoined no longer exists in its challenged form, it is appropriate for us to dismiss this appeal as moot (entered 2/19/08)

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In the News

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White House drops Obama-era discrimination claim against Texas voter ID law

Professor Edward Foley was quoted in The Christian Science Monitor in an article about how the Trump administration dropped a discrimination claim against a Texas voter ID law. Viewed as one of the strictest voting requirements in the country by voting rights advocates, the law required voters to show one of seven valid forms of ID.

A federal appeals court ruled last year that the law disproportionately impacted minorities and those living in poverty. The court required the state to adjust its requirements before the general election. According to court testimony, Hispanic voters were twice as likely to lack proper ID under the law, while black voters were three times as likely.

“Voting litigation is increasing, not decreasing,” Foley said. “The main impression … is that when a law looks like it’s engaging in outright disenfranchisement of a valid voter, even conservative judges have been stopping that. [But] the judiciary is more tolerant with state legislatures adjusting issues of convenience and accessibility, if the adjustment is not outright disenfranchisement.”
 

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