ACLU: Florida Attack on Civil Liberties Unprecedented

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Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- American Civil Liberties Union officials say Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature have mounted an unprecedented attack on civil liberties over the past two years.

The ACLU of Florida issued a report Thursday on actions by the group and others in the courts of law and public opinion and at the ballot box to protect voting, free speech and other rights.

The organization has been involved in 11 lawsuits as part of that effort. They include four still pending cases challenging drug testing of welfare applicants and state employees, a limitation on doctors asking patients about gun ownership and a purge of noncitizens from voting rolls.

An ACLU lawyer said Florida has been "kind of a petri dish" for social experiments being copied and watched by other states.

News Service of Florida Release: ACLU Says State Must Do More Than Repair Elex Problems


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THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, January 10, 2013..........The state has to look at elections reform beyond simply responding to the glitches that plagued this November's voting, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said Thursday.

The organization unveiled some of its priorities for the 2013 legislative session while discussing with reporters a scalding report that accused Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers of trampling on Floridians' rights during the first half of Scott's four-year term.

"I hope Florida does not lose, and I fear that it may lose, a major opportunity by only addressing the issues that came out in the November elections," said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

The organization is pushing for Scott and the Cabinet to reverse new rules, approved last year, requiring non-violent felons to wait between five and seven years after completing their sentences to apply to have their right to vote restored.

So far, lawmakers have largely focused on addressing the long lines that had some voters in Florida still casting ballots after the major news networks had declared President Barack Obama the winner of the 2012 election. Extended early-voting and shorter ballots have both been floated as ways to move voters through the process more quickly.

Simon said the organization would also focus on criminal justice issues, including requiring a unanimous jury vote for the death penalty instead of a majority, overhauling the juvenile justice system and renewing efforts for a state policy focused on making inmates ready to re-enter society. Similar legislation passed the House and Senate overwhelmingly last year but was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Largely, though, the organization's report highlighted nine lawsuits the ACLU has filed or intervened in, challenging Scott and the state on issues ranging from mandatory drug-testing for state employees to voting restrictions to whether doctors can ask patients if they keep a gun in the home.

"Following the November 2010 Election, we anticipated that his Tea Party-backed administration and the 2011 extreme conservative-dominated Legislature would unleash unprecedented assaults on Floridians? civil liberties," it says. "Unfortunately, we were right."

"We issued the report because I thought that the last two years was rather extraordinary," Simon said.

The Republican Party of Florida issued a press release blasting the report, saying it "again exposed the organization's willingness to oppose common sense, stretch the truth and play partisan politics rather than act as a true 'defender of liberty' as it claims." The RPOF called the lawsuits the ACLU has filed frivolous.

"While the ACLU seeks to make headlines by including Governor Scott in their press release, the ACLU has largely failed Florida taxpayers, who voted for and support many of the initiatives that the ACLU opposes," the party said.

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