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Federal judge blocks Florida election law that would have set limits on voter registration

Manny Yekutiel fills out his ballot while voting at City Hall in San Francisco, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

(CNN) — A federal judge on Monday blocked a Florida election law that would have set limits on voter registration in the state.

Chief US District Judge for the Northern District of Florida Mark E. Walker said while it’s correct for the state to “seek integrity” in its electoral system, “Florida’s solutions for preserving election integrity are too far removed from the problems it has put forward as justifications” and violate the US constitution.

The legislation, passed this spring, makes it illegal for people convicted of certain felonies and for non-citizens – including those who have permanent legal residency in the US – to collect or handle voter registration applications. Third-party organizations could face fines of up to $50,000 for each ineligible person involved in collecting the applications.

“Florida may, of course, regulate elections, including the voter registration process,” Walker said in the ruling granting a preliminary injunction. “Here, however, the challenged provisions exemplify something Florida has struggled with in recent years; namely, governing within the bounds set by the United States Constitution.”

“When state government power threatens to spread beyond constitutional bounds and reduce individual rights to ashes, the federal judiciary stands as a firewall,” said Walker, who was nominated by President Barack Obama. “The Free State of Florida is simply not free to exceed the bounds of the United States Constitution.”

CNN has reached out to Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office for comment.

Daniel Tilley, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, called the block “a step in the right direction.”

“This ruling fortifies the idea that all Floridians have a right to participate in building a stronger democracy through civic engagement. While this is a step in the right direction, our work is not finished. People in our communities, including noncitizens, work tirelessly to assist in voter registration efforts to empower Floridians to vote on issues that impact their daily lives,” Tilley said in a statement.