Florida County Settles Lawsuit on Election Day Violations
A federal judge has approved a settlement between Leon County and the NAACP, co-counsel People for the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) and other civil rights organizations. The civil rights groups, representing thousands of citizens disenfranchised in the 2000 presidential election, sued Florida and individual counties, including Leon County, in early 2001. The settlement is a victory for voters in the north Florida county because it requires county officials to take specific steps to help ensure a fair and democratic election.
Under the April 26 settlement, Leon County, which includes the capital city of Tallahassee, agreed to give written explanations to voters whose provisional ballots are rejected; address disputes over voting, voter registration and voting lists; send the Florida Voter’s Bill of Rights in at least one mailing of sample ballots to voters; and meet with community groups to encourage registration, with special efforts targeting minorities and college students. Leon County officials also agreed to improve communication with and training programs for election personnel who work on Election Day.
“We are very pleased that Leon County agreed to the settlement, and the voters of this county also have reason to be pleased,” says Elliot Mincberg, legal director of PFAWF. “This is a positive step toward ensuring that the major irregularities that occurred in the 2000 election will not be repeated.”
During the November 2000 election, some Leon County voters were erroneously identified as felons and their names were removed from the county’s list of registered voters. The settlement requires county officials to restore those voters’ names to its lists.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit will proceed against the state and other individual counties with the trial set for Aug. 26. Leon County is the only county that has agreed to a court-approved settlement.
To help avoid future Election Day debacles, PFAWF also has joined with other groups to create the nonpartisan Election Protection project. Election Protection is a comprehensive program of nonpartisan voter education and mobilization, election site poll monitoring and free same-day legal assistance for voters who run into any problems casting a vote.
This November, Election Protection volunteers will be active in more than a half-dozen states.
In addition to PFAWF, Election Protection partners include: National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Black Youth Vote, A. Philip Randolph Institute, National Council of La Raza, National Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, NAACP, ADA Watch, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
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