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Trial: ‘Humiliating’ ban on noncitizens in voter registration efforts harmed workers financially

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Credit: League of Women Voters of FloridaQuality Journalism for Critical Times

Two workers for voter-registration organizations testified Tuesday that their bosses imposed high standards for transparency and adherence to election law but that they suffered financially after a new state law barred noncitizens from doing the work.

That law, SB 7050, is the subject of a constitutional challenge this week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, before Chief Judge Mark Walker. An array of voter-registration groups are suing Secretary of State Cord Byrd and the individual county supervisors of elections.

The law, passed last year, specifies that these organizations cannot have employees or volunteers who are not citizens of the United States help people register to vote, even if they are legal residents. That same exclusion applies to convicted felons, making no allowance for people who have won restoration of their civil and voting rights.

The measure was among a multi-year crackdown by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature on access to the ballot that followed the 2020 presidential election and Donald Trump’s efforts to discredit the voting system.

Veronica Herrera-Lucha and Elizabeth Pico, both of Osceola County, testified during the trial’s second day that they work for Mi Vecino, a third-party voter-registration organization, or so-called “3PVRO,” which focuses on the Hispanic community. Each said she has worked for similar groups in the past.

Neither is a U.S. citizen — Herrera-Lucha, from El Salvador, is married to a citizen and Pico, from Venezuela, is an asylum seeker. Each testified in Spanish through a translator that they hold work permits from the federal government.

Once the law passed last summer, their organization, in an abundance of caution, restricted their ability to handle voter-registration forms, whether blank or filled out by prospective voters, citing the bar against noncitizens “collecting or handling” these forms; managers couldn’t be sure how the state would define that language.

Walker has enjoined enforcement of that provision, but even so the groups fear incurring $50,000 fined for each violation.

Reduced duties

That meant reduced duties for Herrera-Luca, who had to put on hold her plans to buy a house, she said on the stand.

“I had to cancel that because I was the primary breadwinner in my house with that anxiety of not knowing whether I would have a job or not,” she said.

“The law discriminated against me. I am not allowed to do so [her job] because I am not a citizen,” she added.

“It was something that was discriminatory and humiliating,” Pico said, describing feelings of “frustration and anxiety.” She was in line for a promotion amid plans to expand into Miami-Dade County, but her bosses had to withdraw the offer under the circumstances.

With a federal work permit, “we have an absolute right to work within the United States and avoid any continued humiliation and discrimination,” Pico added.

Both described a rigorous compliance process within the organizations they have worked with, including multiple rounds of training and close supervision. Even though Pico brought experience from other third-party registration groups, Mi Vecino put her through it again and she also attended fresh training through her local supervisor of elections office, she said.

Pico described an occasion in 2022 when the Orange County supervisor found irregularities in forms the group collected. Mi Vecino fired four employees — one a citizen and three noncitizens, she said.

A lawyer for the state at one point showed Herrera-Lucha a fraud complaint filed by Polk County against a canvasser but she said she knew nothing about that case, as she didn’t work in that area.

The state’s lawyers asked questions emphasizing the existence of other avenues to register, including online and at the elections supervisor’s office. Pico replied that not all the non-English speakers she has dealt with are strong readers or adept at navigating web portals.

She also stressed an emphasis on making personal connections with the people she interacts with, including “the importance of getting them to know the people who are representing them within the community.”

The post Trial: ‘Humiliating’ ban on noncitizens in voter registration efforts harmed workers financially appeared first on Florida Phoenix.

Civil Rights & Immigration, Politics & Law, citizens of the United States, Elizabeth Pico, Mark Walker, Mi Vecino, Secretary of State Cord Byrd, testified in Spanish, third-party voter-registration organization, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Veronica Herrera-Lucha, voter-registration forms

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