July 24, 2023
Mitch Perry
Florida Phoenix

Third-party FL groups struggling to register voters; by Oct. 1 they’ll have to provide ‘receipts’

Traditionally, members with the League of Women Voters of Florida would be out and about this summer with clipboards in hand trying to register voters at parades, libraries, grocery stores and other local community events. Then they’d collect those paper registration forms and send them to local supervisors of elections offices to get those people on the voter rolls.

But the League shut down those activities on July 1.

That’s when the latest elections reform law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis went into effect – the third such elections bill passed in Florida in the past three years.

Among the new provisions in this law is a requirement that third-party voter registration organizations (also known as 3PVROs) provide a receipt to an individual who has filled out a voter registration form.

The law calls for the Florida’s Division of Elections to create such a form that must include the name of the applicant, the date the application was received, the name of the third-party voting registration group, the name of the person who accepts the registration form, the applicant’s political party and the county where the applicant lives.

However, there are no such receipts to distribute to voters right now.

The newly implemented law says that the state Division of Elections has until October 1 to create that receipt form, which will then be distributed by supervisors of elections to voter registration organizations. But until then, those groups have no such receipts to offer individual voters.

“The bottom line is, all third-party voting registration in Florida is disabled until October 1 of this year,” said Devon Murphy- Anderson, the co-founder of Mi Vecino, a voting rights organization.

While that’s not technically true, some registration groups have shut down their voting registration efforts for the time being, while others are continuing to do so, but under more challenging conditions.

Natalie Meiner, the director of communications and marketing for the Florida Department of State, says everything is on pace per the directives in the law when it comes to providing receipts for third-party voting registration groups.

“The rulemaking process has been ongoing, and we’ll have receipt forms by the statute’s deadline to do so,” she told the Phoenix in an email, referring to the Oct. 1 deadline. “3PVROs are not prevented from continuing their work in the interim.”


Several voting rights groups told the Phoenix last week that what they have been doing instead is signing up new voters either by handing them applications and giving them a self-addressed stamped envelope to send out on their own, or electronically by offering tablets to individuals and directing them to a section of the division of election’s website that accepts online voter registrations.

But LaVon Bracy, the director of democracy with Faith in Florida, calls that procedure “problematic.”

“It slows the process and I think that was the intent on what they wanted to be done,” she says of the Republican-led Legislature, which approved the measure over the opposition of Democrats in a straight party-line vote. “If we are going to a large event, we will have voter registration applications on the table. We will also have envelopes and we will give them a stamp. But we will not put our hands on the voter registration application. “

Some voting registration groups have opted to refrain from doing any such efforts until the receipts become available. The nonprofit Mi Vecino has redirected their team to instead collect petitions for the proposed 2024 citizen-led ballot initiative campaign to give women the right to seek abortions up to viability.

When the measure was proposed during the legislative session earlier this year, opponents attacked it as a “voter suppression” measure, a charge strongly denied by Pasco County Republican Danny Burgess, who sponsored the measure in the Senate (he did not respond to a request for comment).

During the session, Burgess said the bill “does not and will not hinder anyone’s right to vote, nor would I ever subscribe my name to something that could even remotely be concluded to be voter suppression. There is nothing in this bill that makes it harder for a lawfully registered voter to cast their ballot.”

“That’s nuts”

Cecile Scoon, the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, says, “receipts are very murky also, because there are provisions in the statute that say if you make any record of the personal information of someone that you’re registering to vote, that’s a felony. How do you give somebody a receipt, put your name on it, and then don’t make a copy, because anybody can make up a receipt and say, ‘oh yeah, the League gave me a receipt, but they didn’t turn in my voter registration application.’ That’s nuts. [The law] was very badly written and I think created jeopardy for anybody giving a receipt because others could make one up. And the state up until this time, and when the law was written, had not designed the form. It is just a lot of confusion.”

The League recently filed an ongoing lawsuit against the new election law in 2023. The “receipt” provision is part of that lawsuit, but federal Judge Mark Walker recently blocked that specific challenge.

Sam Oliker-Friedland, a former voting rights litigator at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, says he doesn’t really see any election security rationale for tightening the rules so stringently for voter registration groups in Florida’s new election law.

“One of the reasons that third-party voting registration drives are so helpful is that third-party organizers are actually trained to make sure that voter registration forms are filled out correctly, they’re trained to make sure that the voter didn’t make a mistake,” he says. “If we’re not allowing third-party organizers to do their jobs, election administrators are going to get much more error-riddled paper in their office. That means that voters won’t be able to vote and that takes time, resources and staffing on the supervisors’ parts to process.”