pam_bondi_web_3.jpgTALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Florida's new Republican-sponsored election law is the target of another lawsuit, this one focusing on a section that puts new restrictions on voter registration drives.


Three groups that conduct or advocate such drives sued Thursday, claiming the law violates their free speech rights and it fails to give fair notice of how to comply with confusing and unclear requirements.

They also contend the state law conflicts with the National Voter Registration Act that encourages community-based voter registration.

“Sadly, Florida's anti-voter law creates impassable roadblocks for our volunteers, who are simply trying to bring fellow citizens into our democratic process,'' said Florida League of Women Voters president Deirdre Macnab.

The league, the Rock the Vote group that focuses on young people, and the Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund joined in the lawsuit.

The new law says registration forms must be turned in within 48 hours instead of 10 days under the old statute. The groups contend that and other administrative requirements are burdensome and fines for the slightest delay or mistake are too harsh.

The league has suspended registration activities in Florida because of the new law.

The lawsuit came two days after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder cited the Florida law as an example of efforts across the nation to suppress voter turnout. Most of the new laws have been passed by Republican-controlled legislatures.

The Department of State received the lawsuit but has not yet had a chance to completely review it, said spokesman Chris Cate.

“Generally speaking we believe all of Florida's new election laws improve the accessibility and integrity of Florida's elections,'' Cate wrote in an email.

It's not a new issue for Cate's boss, Secretary of State Kurt Browning. He's already embroiled in a contentious review of four key provisions of the new law by a three-judge panel in Washington. It will determine if those sections comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. Such approval is required because of past racial discrimination in five Florida counties.

The four provisions include the voter registration drive requirements and a reduction in the number of early voting days. The panel also is looking at sections that require voters to cast provisional ballots if they change their addresses at polling places after moving from another county and reduce the shelf life of citizen initiative signatures from four to two years.

The League of Women Voters is among more than two dozen groups and individuals who have intervened against approval. They contend the provisions are designed to discourage voting by minorities, young people and the elderly _ groups that tend to vote Democratic.

Holder has approved other provisions in the law, but Browning, an appointee of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, asked for court review of the remaining four, saying he was worried about outside influences on the attorney general.

Browning also Thursday announced a new campaign to help school districts and teachers conduct voter registration drives in high schools.

His office has asked Attorney General Pam Bondi to fine a Panhandle teacher up to $1,000 for missing the 48-hour deadline for turning in registration forms.

The old limit, though, still applies in the five Voting Rights Act counties _ Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe _ pending action by the Washington court.

The campaign will encourage school districts to file with the state as third party voter registration organizations. That way, if there are any violations the districts rather than individual teachers and staffers would be penalized. The maximum fine is $1,000 per year for each organization.

Former Republican state Sen. Nancy Argenziano last week sued in state court to challenge another provision that requires candidates to swear they haven't been a member of another political party for at least a year before they qualify for office. That's preventing Argenziano, currently registered with the Independent Party, from running for Congress as a Democrat. She's running against U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Wednesday in Tallahassee rejected a challenge to another provision that lets the attorney general rewrite defective ballot summaries for proposed state constitutional amendments.

Lewis ruled the summary of a proposed amendment that would repeal Florida's ban on financial aid to churches and other religious organizations was misleading. He ordered it off the 2012 ballot at least until Bondi submits a rewrite that fixes the problem.