Voting rights, death penalty, drones and other high- and low-lights from a session that “should have been better” for Floridians

CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office,, (786) 363-2737

The following statement on the end of the 2013 legislative session may be attributed to Howard Simon, Executive Director, ACLU of Florida:

 “This legislative session opened with big promises from Gov. Scott and legislative leaders that this year would be different. We were told that after the fiasco of the 2012 election, our elected leaders had seen the error of their ways and would undo the damage that they inflicted on Florida’s democracy in 2011.

“Now that the session has ended, what the legislature delivered was an election reform measure that made some improvements in our election process, but failed to adequately address the restrictions on early voting that the Legislature imposed with the Voter Suppression Act of 2011, HB 1355.  The bill enacted by the Legislature does not mandate that early voting be available on any weekend – when many working people in Florida used early voting.

“The Bill leaves a troubling amount of discretion to County Supervisors of Elections about how much early voting will be permitted.  Not only does this too-modest reform not ensure that we will not see a repeat of the long lines that plagued Florida’s voting in November of last year, but your right to vote should not depend on the county in which you live.

“The final days also saw a flurry of activity on some extreme bills attacking civil liberties, continuing the legislature’s assault on women’s reproductive rights, threatening religious liberty, and worsening injustices in our death penalty system.  The so-called “Timely Justice Act,” which curtails individuals’ ability to challenge a sentence of death, is an attempt by the Legislature to dictate policy to both the Governor and the courts.  If signed by the Governor, it will only ensure that Florida - which leads the nation in death-row exonerations - will execute wrongfully-convicted innocent people.

“There were some bright spots for civil liberties, too. The legislature deserves praise for making Florida the first state to pass a law putting strict limits on police use of surveillance drones.  Many bills that advance individual liberties – like the domestic partner registry and proposals to reform our criminal justice system and end the dangerous use of solitary confinement on children – cleared early hurdles, setting up victories in future legislatures. And in the final hours of the session, enough Senators stood up against intolerance to defeat a dangerous and discriminatory ‘anti-Sharia’ law.  Compared to previous years, this session could have been worse.

“But compared to what the people of Florida deserve, it should have been better.”

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