Protecting Students’ Right to Vote

On December 15, the Florida PIRG Education Fund, along with the League of Women Voters of Florida and Rock the Vote, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Tallahassee challenging Florida’s onerous new restrictions on community-based voter registration drives on the basis that they violate both the U.S. Constitution and the National Voter Registration Act.

The law enacted by Florida legislators earlier this year (H.B. 1355) includes restrictions such as extremely burdensome administrative requirements, unreasonably tight deadlines for submission of completed forms, and heavy penalties for even the slightest delay of mistake. These restrictions are so harsh that groups like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote have had to shut down their Florida voter registration programs; both groups –especially Rock the Vote – focus heavily on registering young and minority voters.

Brad Ashwell, advocate for the Florida PIRG Education Fund, states, “Our representative democracy relies on an engaged citizenry, yet voter turnout in Florida remains far too low. That’s why we work to sign up thousands of first time voters across the state each election cycle. It’s unfortunate that rather than find ways to bring new voters into the fold, the Florida legislature is instead targeting groups that help attract new voters. This law will inevitably lead to fewer voters at the polls.” 

Students are disproportionately affected by this new law because they are more likely to register to vote if engaged by community-based volunteer groups like Rock the Vote and the Student PIRGs New Voters Project. The Florida PIRG Education Fund is working hard to make sure that in the coming election cycle, students can run large, effective voter registration drives throughout the state of Florida, thereby protecting students’ right to vote.