The Florida NAACP, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and Vote.org sued several Florida officials Thursday for requiring that those without an in-state driver’s license must provide a handwritten signature to register to vote.
In the federal lawsuit — filed against Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, a Republican, and the state’s 67 election observers — the plaintiffs allege that the “wet signature requirement” violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Florida law generally treats digital or electronic signatures as equivalent in all respects to wet signatures, and most Floridians can submit their voter registration applications online with a digital signature. Other citizens of Florida are denied this opportunity.” goes because his qualifications have nothing to do with the voters of Florida,” the plaintiffs wrote.
He continued: “This ban serves no other purpose than to inhibit the voting rights of some Floridians.”
The wet signature requirement has no connection to eligibility under state law that determines voter eligibility, nor does it serve any purpose for which an electronic signature would not suffice, they wrote, asking the court in violation of the civil The rules urged to declare the Rights Act and prevent the state from implementing it in future.
Vote.org, a national get-out-the-vote nonprofit organization, has filed similar suits in Texas and Georgia.
Voting rights advocates and critics of the wet signature requirement say that it restricts people’s legal rights in Florida, while supporters of the rule argue that it protects against instances of election fraud.
Mike Hammer, director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland, said the need particularly affects people from historically underrepresented groups, including low-income people, racial and ethnic minorities and younger and older Floridians — including Some are represented by the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans.
“The stated reason for these requirements is to prevent fraud,” Hammer said. “It’s a really minor problem. We don’t have a lot of instances of fraud.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, and the GOP-controlled state legislature have also limited the use of ballot drop boxes. And despite there being only rare incidents of election fraud in the US, DeSantis last year launched a special law enforcement unit to investigate such fraud.
“This is where we see death by a thousand paper cuts,” said Andrea Hailey, CEO of Vote.org. “Instead of competing in the marketplace of ideas, there are people who want to create laws that reshape the electorate so that they only have the voters they choose, rather than the eligible voters.”
The Florida NAACP said the signature requirement diverts time and resources toward helping registrants print, sign, and physically return their voter registration forms.
A spokesperson for DeSantis referred NBC News to the Florida Department of State when asked for comment. The office of Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd did not immediately respond to a request for comment.