A federal judge in Florida has temporarily blocked parts of a sweeping elections law from Governor Ron DeSantis that would have set limits on voter registration efforts in the state.

The first line of a searing order for a preliminary injunction from US District Judge Mark Walker calls the law “Florida’s latest assault on the right to vote,” one that would prohibit non-citizens from helping register people to vote, and would make it a felony for voting rights groups who register voters to retain their personal information.

“Florida may, of course, regulate elections, including the voter registration process. 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,” Judge Walker wrote in his order on 3 July.

“When state government power threatens to spread beyond constitutional bounds and reduce individual rights to ashes, the federal judiciary stands as a firewall,” he wrote in a 58-page ruling. “The Free State of Florida is simply not free to exceed the bounds of the United States Constitution.”

A package of Republican-backed election measures passed earlier this year makes it illegal for people convicted of certain felonies and for non-citizens – including people with permanent legal residency status – to collect or handle voter registration applications.

Third-party groups could also be hit with fines of up to $50,000 for each person deemed ineligible for handling or collecting applications.

A lawsuit from several groups, including the ACLU and the Florida chapter of the NAACP, argues that the law violates the First and 14th Amendments.

Judge Walker, who was appointed by Barack Obama, noted that voting rights groups “offer a convenient alternative for Florida citizens to complete and submit voter registration applications so that they can participate in our democratic system” and are “driven to serve their communities, connect with Floridians – particularly some of the most marginalized citizens in our state – about the importance of voting, and properly register as many new voters as possible.”

The Independent has requested comment from the office of Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, named as a defendant in the case.

“The court was right to block this law because it was a clear and brazen attack on civic participation in our democracy,” according to a statement from Adriel I Cepeda Derieux, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, who argued the preliminary injunction motion on behalf of the plaintiffs challenging the law.

Frankie Miranda, president and CEO of the Hispanic Federation, among the plaintiffs in the case, said Florida’s voter registration law “served no other purpose than to silence our communities”.

Judge Walker – who has issued several rulings striking down critical parts of the DeSantis agenda – stressed that his ruling is not final, but he framed the order within a broader, patriotic scope, noting that he issued a decision the day before the Fourth of July, when many Floridians “may feel moved, for the first time, to embrace their solemn privilege as citizens by registering to vote.”

He pointed to the story of one plaintiff, Veronica Herrera-Lucha, who immigrated to the US from El Salvador and has legal permanent residency status in the US. She works as a field director for voter registration group Mi Vecino, which works to help register Hispanic and Latino residents and other first-time voters in the state.

“Herrera-Lucha, a noncitizen who, herself, lacks the right to vote, has spent years registering and encouraging citizens to exercise that solemn right,” Judge Walker wrote. “She may, at least for now, continue to do so and add more voices to the millions of others signing a more perfect Union into existence.”

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