Decision Today in Florida Voting Rights Case

December 19, 2003

For Immediate Release

Contact Information:

Scott Schell, 212 998-6318

Jessie Allen, 212 992-8639

Decision Today in Florida Voting Rights Case

A federal appeals court today reversed a decision precluding trial in Johnson v. Bush. This lawsuit seeks to restore voting rights to more than 600,000 people with past felony convictions, who have returned to their communities and are nevertheless barred forever from the Florida polls. The plaintiff class includes homeowners, taxpayers and parents who want to participate in civic life.

This is a great day for democracy in Florida, especially for the 600,000 people who have fully completed all terms of probation, incarceration, or parole, but are nevertheless denied the right to vote—the defining right in our democracy. With so much at stake, it is only fair that the plaintiffs have their day in court. This decision gives them that chance—a chance that they have never had—to prove their right to go to the polls and have a voice in their own government, explains Jessie Allen, lead attorney for the plaintiffs and Associate Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice.

A three-judge panel of the Federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit decided the appeal from a lower court’s decision granting summary judgment to the defendants and upholding the voting ban. Judges Barkett and Fullam voted in favor of the plaintiffs in an opinion authored by Judge Barkett. Judge Kravitch dissented. The ruling reverses and remands to the lower court the equal protection and voting rights claims.

Florida advocates commend the decision. We applaud the court for recognizing that the challenge to Floridas voting ban deserves its day in court. The mass disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of Florida citizens is the overriding civil rights crisis in our state, and we look to the courts to end this shameful injustice, said ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon. The ACLU is working with a coalition that is helping people with felony convictions through the clemency process.

Todays decision is a great step forward for those thousands of citizens, who want to register and exercise their right to vote, but are denied, although theyve served out their probation and are now being integrated back into society. Finally these citizens and those who represent them will have their day in court and an opportunity to present their case, says U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (FL-17), a long time advocate for re-enfranchisement.

Plaintiffs and attorneys are available for interview or comment. To schedule an interview, or for more information, please call Scott Schell at 212.998-6318.

More information can also be found on ourJohnson v. Bush page.

Plaintiffs’ co-counsel include:

Anita Hodgkiss, formerly of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 1401 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005; James K. Green and Nina Zollo of James K. Green, P.A., Suite 1630, Esperante, 222 Lakeview Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL 33401.