“Our election system: it’s not working.” Discussion of civil rights and civil liberties of Floridians absent from Gov. Scott’s State of the State

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

Today, the first day of the 2013 Florida Legislative Session, Governor Rick Scott delivered his third “State of the State” Address. The following response to that speech may be attributed to Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida.

“The 2013 Legislative Session presents great opportunities to advance not only the economic health of the State, but also the civil liberties and civil rights of Floridians. Unfortunately, in his entire 35-minute speech, the Governor didn’t mention some of the most critical issues facing Floridians.

“The past two legislative sessions have seen some of the most far-reaching attacks on individual freedoms in recent memory. This year, lawmakers have an opportunity to break that streak and undo that damaging record. Advancing and protecting the civil rights and civil liberties is something that all Floridians, Republican and Democrat, can and must work together to achieve.

“Here’s what the Governor left out. Our election system: it’s not working. The effects of 2011’s Voter Suppression Act, House Bill 1355, passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Scott was plain for all to see during the 2012 elections, when our state was once again the laughing stock of American democracy. Despite his assurances made shortly after the election that he would make voting reform a priority in this session, Governor Scott made no mention of his or any plan to fix our broken election system.

“The state of our state is that there is a crisis in the democratic process.  Simply undoing the damage  created by the Voter Suppression Act does not go far enough to reform the way in which Floridians exercise their right to vote. Legislators have a real opportunity, in the aftermath of the confusion and long lines of the 2012 election, to address problems that have existed for years in our election system and ensure that every citizen can vote and have their vote counted in a fair and timely manner.

“We also must make badly needed, common sense reforms to our criminal justice system, re-evaluating the impact of policies like the over-reliance on incarceration that are burdening our taxpayers and destroying communities. Lawmakers must also focus on re-establishing Florida’s reputation as an immigrant-friendly state by enacting reforms such as access to college education and ending policies that employ racial and ethnic profiling.

“Finally, lawmakers can take action to ensure that every person in our state is treated with fairness and respect by their government by prohibiting discrimination against Floridians who are LGBT, and not subjecting entire groups of Floridians to suspicionless, invasive government searches.

“We hope that the governor’s omission of these issues was  not a sign that Floridians can expect more of what we’ve seen  in past years. And we hope that lawmakers leverage the opportunity that the next two months present.

“Advancing fairness, justice and equal protection under the law needs to be a priority for all lawmakers during this year’s legislative session. Now is the time to create lasting change that benefits all Floridians. We look forward to working with lawmakers in the next sixty days to advance these values. “