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Florida NAACP v. Browning

In 2007, Florida law stated that a voter application would be considered invalid unless the state performed a successful database match or otherwise verified the applicant’s identifying number, leaving it to the voter applicant to prove otherwise. This troubled voting rights groups, which filed suit that year.

Plaintiffs argued that this law effectively transformed the government function of assigning each voter a unique identifying number into a barrier to registration and voting. Eligible and truthful registration applicants whose information did not exactly match information in other databases suddenly became presumptively ineligible, and would have to struggle—often without knowing the problem and often unsuccessfully—to have their votes counted.

The plaintiffs had a difficult time convincing Florida’s federal courts of the matching law’s legal shortcomings. In December 2007, the District Court for the Northern District of Florida granted an injunction for the plaintiffs, finding that the matching law had resulted in “actual harm to real individuals.” However, in April 2008, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the injunction without ruling whether the law was unconstitutional, but holding that plaintiffs did not make a strong enough showing that an injunction was necessary on the ground that federal statutes preempted the Florida matching law. In response to the litigation, as well as the public and media condemnation of the law and its confusing standards, the legislature made changes to the No Match law, which the plaintiffs again challenged by filing a renewed motion for preliminary injunction, this time on constitutional grounds. They continued to argue that the notification and subsequent applicant verification process was flawed because some applicants never received notices of the non-matches, and the notices that were received contained no information about the defect in the application or the source of the non-match.

Further, plaintiffs maintained that the standards for Election Day verification were confusing and difficult for poll workers to implement. The motion was denied primarily because the Court believed that plaintiffs did not adequately present evidence that the new law imposed the same harms as the original statute.

The state argued, and the Court agreed, that verification was made easier because applicants could verify their identity by showing a form of ID (driver’s license, state-issued ID card, Social Security card) to authenticate their number, regardless of what number they actually listed on their application. This amendment, they argued, no longer limits the ability to verify and establish one’s actual number to those who originally wrote the number correctly on their application form. The state also argued that it had improved the matching process and provided further guidelines to increase the effectiveness of the notification process.

Litigation Documents

Complaint. September 17, 2007.

Memo in Support of Preliminary Injunction. September 17, 2007.

Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. September 21, 2007.

Memo in Opposition Regarding Motion to Dismiss. October 26, 2007.

Response in Opposition Regarding Motion to Dismiss. November 21, 2007.

Response in Opposition Regarding Motion for Preliminary Injunction. December 10, 2007.

District Court Order on Standing. December 18, 2007.

District Court Preliminary Injunction. December 18, 2007.

Appellant Brief. January 7, 2008.

Appellee Brief. January 10, 2008.

Appellant Reply. January 10, 2008.

Appeals Court Decision. April 3, 2008.

Order Denying Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Renewed Motion for Preliminary Injunction. June 24, 2008.

Order to Dismiss. March 1, 2010.

 

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