JoNel Newman, Assistant Professor of Clinical Legal Education here at UM (and also special counsel to the ACLU), has written a major report on the implementation of the Voting Rights Act in Florida. The report, Voting Rights in Florida, 1982-2006, which is being issued today, was commissioned by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund through RenewtheVRA.org, a coalition of national and grassroots civil rights organizations working to renew and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.
Prof. Newman’s report is one of 14 state reports requested by Congress to examine the impact of the Voting Rights Act over the past 25 years, since the last time the Act was fully reauthorized. (The other reports cover Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.) It includes recent examples of voting rights violations, and ties these to a need to renew the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The report also calls for the extension of assistance to language minorities, including assistance for citizens speaking Haitian Creole, which it says are needed “now more than ever.”
In a press release accompanying the release of the report, Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida calls it “the most comprehensive analysis produced in the last 25 years documenting the impact of the Voting Rights Act on Florida elections.” Prof. Newman says, “We have made a lot of progress in 40 years but we are far from finished. … All Floridians need to do is look at the elections of 2000 and 2004 to see that VRA violations are still a persistent feature of our State’s political landscape.”
The 1965 Voting Rights Act bans discrimination voting practices such as literacy tests and unfair redistricting schemes. Congress is currently considering whether to renew key parts of the statute, notably those providing for language assistance, Election Day monitors and Justice Department pre-approval of voting changes. Without renewal, these provisions will expire in August, 2007.
Below I reproduce the executive summary of the report: