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Leading Civil Rights Groups Urge Department of Justice to Require Florida to Submit Voting Change for Review

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5/02/11

Announced Changes to Voting Have Not Been Approved by Department of Justice

(New York, NY) – Today, the nation’s leading civil rights organizations, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), NAACP, Florida State Conference of the NAACP, and the Advancement Project, called upon the United States Department of Justice to require the State of Florida to submit for review its recent changes to rules governing the restoration of voting rights to persons with felony convictions.

The Florida Executive Clemency Board recently sought to adopt changes that would require a person convicted of a non-violent felony to wait five years after completing a sentence before that citizen can even apply for a restoration of her voting rights.  Moreover, under the proposed new rule, the clock automatically resets if an individual is arrested during this period, even if no charges are ultimately filed.  

Before these changes can take affect, however, Florida must comply with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of voting discrimination, such as Florida, to submit any changes to voting laws to the DOJ for review.

“We previously notified Florida of its obligation under the Voting Rights Act to submit the proposed voting changes to the Department of Justice for review.  Unfortunately, Florida refused to do so.  We are now urging the Department of Justice to require the submission of these proposed voting changes, which would constitute a complete reversal of Florida’s previous policy, under which more than 100,000 people regained their voting rights,” said John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel on behalf of the groups.
“It is our expectation, and certainly the hope of the scores of Floridians of color who are affected by these proposed changes, that the Department of Justice will require Florida to abide by the Voting Rights Act and submit these changes for approval,” Payton concluded.

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ABOUT LDF
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is America's premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 70 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments.

ABOUT NAACP
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. From the ballot box to the classroom, the thousands of dedicated workers, organizers, leaders and members who make up the NAACP continue to fight for social justice for all Americans.

ABOUT ADVANCEMENT PROJECT
Advancement Project is a next generation civil rights organization. We tackle inequity using innovative strategies and strong community alliances. With a national office in Washington, D.C. and two offices in California, we combine law, communications, policy and technology to create workable solutions and achieve systemic change. We aim to inspire and strengthen movements that expand opportunity for all.