N.A.A.C.P. v. Harris
Florida Voting Rights Lawsuit Settled;
NAACP LDF To Monitor State's Implementation of Landmark Agreement
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) joined other civil rights organizations in announcing the settlement of a landmark class action lawsuit stemming from the 2000 presidential election. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of thousands of African-American and Haitian-American Floridians who were unable to vote in that election, and named as defendants the state of Florida, seven Florida counties, and a private company that did work for the state.
"We are very pleased with the settlement, but we recognize it will require monitoring and diligence on the part of local and national civil rights organizations," stated LDF President and Director-Counsel Elaine R. Jones. "LDF is not prepared to walk away from the table on this - we will continue to make sure that the favorable terms negotiated actually benefit Florida voters."
The lawsuit, N.A.A.C.P. et al. v. Smith and Kast et al., was filed in January 2001. It sought substantial changes in voter registration and election day practices that the plaintiffs claimed unfairly impacted black voters. The settlement requires the state or state agencies to take concrete steps to improve the voting process, including:
These provisions are consistent with agreements made with the seven counties that were included in the original lawsuit. Those agreements include commitments by the counties to distribute technology and modern equipment fairly among heavily minority and non-minority precincts.
- Help identify eligible voters who were removed from the voter rolls in error so that they may be restored, and implement new procedures to help prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future;
- Assess and recommend improvements in training for poll workers and staffing at polling places;
- Ensure that elections are administered properly, including the fair distribution of equipment, resources, technology, and staffing at polling places;
- Study and report to the Legislature on ways to strengthen election administration throughout the state; and
- Notify voters that they can register to vote and change registration information at DMV and Children's Services offices.
"We will continue to work with community organizations in Florida to make sure this settlement is not just empty words on paper, but has life and is implemented appropriately," asserted LDF Attorney Todd A. Cox.
Other civil rights advocates representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit included The Advancement Project, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, N.A.A.C.P., People for the American Way Foundation, and the Miami law firm of Williams and Associates.
The defendants in the lawsuit included the Florida Secretary of State; the Directors of the Division of Elections, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families; Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, and Volusia counties; and DBT/Choice Point, Inc., the contractor that screened Florida's voting rolls. Orange and Hillsborough were the last two counties to reach an agreement with the plaintiffs.
LDF's involvement in the Florida lawsuit is an extension of its decades-long commitment to fulfilling and safeguarding the voting rights of all Americans. As the nation's oldest and most successful civil rights and public interest law firm, LDF is recognized for its pioneering and long-standing advocacy.
LDF played a major advocacy role in crafting and enacting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and has been involved in virtually every major voting rights-related legislative and administrative advocacy issue since, including the development, passage, implementation and defense of the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.