Archive for June, 2012

July 10 Webinar on the RNC in Tampa

First Amendment BullhornBaylor Johnson
Online Advocacy Coordinator, ACLU of Florida

In just over two months, our state will be at the center of global attention, as thousands of journalists, political activists, and protesters descend on Tampa for the 2012 Republican National Convention. How will policies and laws put into place for the Convention impact the rights of the reporters, demonstrators, and the citizens of Florida? And what can we do to ensure that our First Amendment rights and other freedoms are being upheld?

Join us online on Tuesday, July 10 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. for a free know-your-rights webinar, 2012 RNC in Tampa: What You Need to Know. We’ll discuss the rights of demonstrators and photographers, the permitting process and other rules and restrictions passed for the event, and take questions from the webinar attendees on how you can stand up for your rights.

The webinar will feature speakers from the ACLU of Florida, the Public Defender’s Office, as well as Tampa City Attorney James Shimberg, and Tampa Police Department Chief Jane Castor and Assistant Chief John Bennett.

Register for the webinar today to reserve your spot. You will receive an email with log-in information after you have registered. For additional questions or comments, contact our Mid-Florida Regional Director Joyce Hamilton Henry at jhamiltonhenry@aclufl.org.

UPDATE 7/10: Excitement for the webinar has exceeded our expectations! So many people have registered to learn to protect their rights that we may exceed the capacity for the webinar. If you have registered, try to log in early to ensure your spot in the webinar. If the webinar is full when you attempt to log in, keep trying, or follow us on Twitter as we livetweet the event at @ACLUFL, and download the PowerPoint (approx. 3MB) here.

ACLU to Florida: Your voter purge “is in violation” of the law

News: ACLU to Florida: Your voter purge “is in violation” of the law
Communications Department

The ACLU and the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law wrote to the Florida Secretary of State today to inform the state that the ongoing effort to remove legal, registered voters from the voting rolls is “in violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993…”

The letter is here. http://www.aclufl.org/pdfs/2012-06-FloridaNVRANoticeLetter.pdf

Florida’s effort to kick people off its voter registration rolls has ensared hundreds of citizens who are legally eligible to vote.

Yesterday, the United States Departement of Justice wrote to Florida similarly expressing concerns about the voter purge. The DOJ letter is here. http://www.postonpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/0531-DOJPURGELETTER.pdf

Legal Victory – Voter Registration

Legal Victory – Voter Registration
By Derek Newton
ACLU of Florida Communications Director

Yesterday a federal court in Tallahassee blocked enforcement of a key portion of Florida’s new voting laws – the section which placed new restrictions and financial penalties on civic groups which undertook voter registration drives.

The new law was so bad that groups such as The League of Women Voters stopped registering voters entirely and two teachers were threatened with fines for registering students in their classrooms under the guise of cracking down on ‘voter fraud.’

The ACLU was part of the legal team representing The League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote and other impacted groups in Constitutional challenge to the law. We argued, in part, that restricting the rights of individuals and organizations to engage in the political process without a compelling state interest was a violation of First Amendment. The judge agreed.

In the ruling the Judge wrote, “The short deadline, coupled with substantial penalties for noncompliance, make voter registration drives a risky business.  If the goal is to discourage voter registration drives and thus make it harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed.”

Clearly, as we argued from the very considering on this law in the Legislature, the goal was to make it harder for people to register to vote. And limited those opportunities has a real impact on the people who do voter registration as well as the voters and communities they engage.

Other parts of the law made it harder to vote and harder to have your vote counted. Those provisions are also under review in another case where ACLU is part of the legal team. This one is before a federal court in the District of Columbia and will determine whether the changes are legal under the U.S. Voting Rights Act because of their disproportionate impact on racial and language minorities.

Those changes and Florida’s recent and deeply flawed efforts to remove legally registered voters from the voting roles are part of a pattern in Florida to make voting harder and more complicated.

But the decision yesterday was a significant step in re-establishing the rule of law of the weight of constitutional protections in Florida’s election procedures. As the judge also wrote yesterday, “Soliciting an application [to register to vote] is core First Amendment speech.”

Yes, it is.



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