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Florida sued over new law that limits ballot initiatives

A ballot drop-off box is located outside the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office on Military Trail.
Posted at 3:15 PM, May 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-08 15:15:24-04

MIAMI (AP) -- A federal lawsuit filed Saturday is seeking to strike down Florida's attempt to make it more difficult for voters to change the state constitution.

The new law was only signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday, and it establishes a $3,000 limit on individual contributions to groups promoting ballot initiatives. The limit is imposed until a proposal is approved for the ballot, which could have made it impossible for measures such as medical marijuana or minimum wage increase to get before voters.

The ACLU of Florida, which filed the complaint in Tallahassee federal court, says it violates the First Amendment by burdening free speech and association.

Republicans who backed the initiative argued it was needed to keep out-of-state special interest money from influencing the state constitution.

"Florida citizens' right to participate directly in our democracy is protected by the Constitution, and yet, the Legislature and governor have made it their mission to make it even more difficult for Floridians to enact change," said Nicholas Warren, staff attorney at the ACLU of Florida, in a news release. "This latest attempt is a clear and obvious violation of Floridians' free speech rights."

The ACLU of Florida says collecting petition signatures needed to qualify for the ballot can be an expensive effort. Limiting the dollar amount would "nullify Floridians' direct democracy rights," the nonprofit said.