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Florida's voter registration signature law draws a federal lawsuit

A Florida appeals court says remote legal hearings are constitutional.
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A lawsuit challenge Florida's "wet signature" law was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Thursday, March 16, 2023.

A Florida law that requires residents to register to vote using a handwritten signature is the subject of a federal lawsuit.

"Times have changed," said Nick Morrow, communications director at Vote.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that uses digital platforms to help people register to vote."

In addition to Vote.org, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and the Florida NAACP are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Thursday.

The complaint argues the law disproportionately affects seniors, minorities and low-income residents.

Vote.org has sued other states over "wet signature" laws, Morrow said. “Essentially what that means is that certain processes — especially voter registration — has to be done with a pen and paper signature," he said. "That’s really at odds with how people are conducting their affairs these days.”

The requirement for voter registration forms to contain an "original signature" comes from a 2005 state law. It states that residents who fail to register with the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles must submit a voter registration form with an "original signature." The complaint alleges that some voter registration forms have been rejected because they contained an e-signature.

Morrow says signing voter registration forms virtually makes sense because it's accessible and secure.

“It’s something that we do at the bank. It’s something that we do with contracts," Morrow said. "Having to print out an actual piece of paper and sign it, and then being able to deliver that to register to vote, is just creating a whole new process for people.”

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.