A federal judge blocked enforcement Tuesday of a Florida law that prevents people from registering to vote if officials cannot match their Social Security or driver’s license numbers to federal or state databases.
With six weeks before the state’s presidential primary, U.S. District Judge Stephan Mickle issued a temporary injunction against the law, which is meant to prevent election fraud.
“The court recognized that this law is in direct conflict with federal laws designed after the 2000 election debacle to make sure every eligible citizen can have their vote counted,” said plaintiffs’ lawyer Justin Levitt, who is with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning maintained the state law complies with federal ones and said he would immediately appeal.
Three civil rights organizations argued the statute violates federally protected voting rights because the databases are unreliable and the matching process is prone to human error, computer glitches and other problems.
“There could be typos,” said Elizabeth Westfall, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers. “Someone could be using their married name, but their Social Security number might be entered under their maiden name.”
The use of two last names by Hispanics and nontraditional names or spellings favored by many blacks put them at greater risk of error, said Westfall, an attorney with the Advancement Project, a civil rights legal group based in Washington.
The state and plaintiffs—the Florida Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Southwest Voter Education Project and Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition—agreed 14,000 people have been unable to register because their numbers failed to match.
That’s proof the law has caused actual harm, the judge found.
“This disenfranchisement, however unintentional, causes damage to the election system that cannot be repaired after the election has passed,” Mickle wrote. “This impact is not ‘minimal.’ The harm to a disenfranchised voter would be impossible to repair.”