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Texas, Florida Voter Suppression Attempts Roadblocked

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit this afternoon blocked Texas’ new voter ID law, ruling that it discriminated against minority voters. Yesterday in Florida, a federal judge struck down what he called "harsh and impractical" restrictions on voter registration imposed by a voter suppression law signed by Gov. Rick Scott (R) in 2011.

In the Texas case, the judges ruled that the cost of the obtaining the required state ID—about $22, according to the U.S. Department of Justice—would fall most heavily on African American and Hispanic voters. The law was signed by Gov. Rick Perry (R) last year. Texas officials say they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

In Florida, the voter registration restrictions were aimed at non-partisan voter registration drives and imposed a 48-hour deadline to turn in new voter forms or face stiff fines. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote that voter registration drives are “core First Amendment” activities covered by the Constitution.

If the goal is to discourage voter registration drives and thus also make it harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed.

Groups such as Rock the Vote, the League of Women Voters and other non-partisan groups now have 10 days to file new voter registration forms under an agreement with the state.

A panel of federal judges ruled last week that another provision of the Florida law that limits the number of early voting days cannot be implemented in several counties because it would have an adverse impact on minority turnout.      

Florida and Texas are two of 16 states that have passed restrictive voting laws. At least 180 bills restricting voting have been introduced in 41 state legislatures since the beginning of 2011, after the 2010 elections shifted control of 20 state legislative Houses from Democrat to Republican. Thirty-four states introduced voter ID requirements that would effectively disenfranchise more than 21 million eligible voters who don’t have the required IDs—mostly people of color, low-income voters, students, seniors and people with disabilities.

The AFL-CIO My Vote, My Right website offers hands-on information on voter registration, voter ID laws and steps to take to protect your right to vote on Election Day. Find out what you need to know to make sure your vote counts this year. Get information on voter registration, your voting rights by state and more at the AFL-CIO’s MyVoteMyRight.org.

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