THE WORK OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION IN ENFORCING VOTING RIGHTS UNDER THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACTS OF 1957 AND 1960
In 1957 Congress created the Civil Rights Division (Division) as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. During the first two and one-half years of its life, the Division moved slowly. As late as February 1960 the Division had not yet begun to act effectively to bar racial discrimination in voting.
In 1960 the Division faced extraordinary obstacles. Distinguished constitutional lawyers believed that, under the Constitution, the federal government had no power to regulate voter qualifications. According to these scholars, voter qualifications were the exclusive domain of the separate states. Each state was entitled to make an independent determination as to how literate or intelligent its citizens must be before being allowed to participate in local, state, and national elections. Because of this uncertainty, the U.S. Attorney General, William Rogers, decided that the Division should proceed cautiously until the Supreme Court decided the extent of federal authority over voting.
Still, there was much that needed to be done. While Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama do not comprise much of the United States, the size of these states is considerable. Shreveport, at the Texas border of Louisiana, is 500 miles west of the Alabama-Georgia border. Memphis, Tennessee, is 400 miles north of New Orleans. Each of the states had its own laws respecting voter qualifications. In each state, registration procedures and practices were different. Each had peculiar application forms.
THE 1997-98 CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION: REFLECTIONS AND COMMENTARY FROM THE COMMISSION’S FIRST CHAIRMAN
Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte
Twenty years ago, I had the great pleasure of chairing the first Commission, and although one wag said that “never before have so many labored so long with so little result,” the truth is that I look back on that service with a great sense of pride.
Not only did the 1977-78 Constitution Revision Commission launch a number of important ideas that ultimately became a part of our constitution—most notably, the free standing right of privacy that has been so important to individual rights in this state—but it allowed a discussion of very important basic issues. Indeed, the best debate before our Commission concerned the abolition of the death penalty, and anyone who was in the chamber when Governor LeRoy Collins and Jesse McCrary spoke to this issue will never forget it. Whatever fate may hold for the work of this Commission, I wish for it the satisfaction I still feel for honorable service with splendid colleagues.
I want to use this opportunity to address several issues briefly, but, even more, I want to discuss some approaches to constitutional revision.
THE RIGHT OF PRIVACY IN FLORIDA IN THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY AND THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: A NEED FOR PROTECTION FROM PRIVATE AND COMMERCIAL INTRUSION
The Honorable Ben F. Overton and Katherine E. Giddings
Increasingly, the citizens of this country express concern regarding the need for additional protection under the right of privacy, also known as the “right to be let alone.” Recent polls reflect that eighty percent of Americans believe they have lost control over their personal information and that ninety percent favor legislation to provide additional privacy protections. These elevated rates of citizen concern are the direct result of recent sophisticated technological advances, advances which make it both cheap and easy to categorize and to track what was once thought to be private information. To properly examine how to best address these concerns, it is important to understand that Florida is one of the few states in this country to have an express right of privacy in its constitution to protect against government intrusion.
FLORIDA’S CITIZEN CONSTITUTIONAL BALLOT INITIATIVES: FISHING TO CHANGE THE PROCESS AND LIMIT SUBJECT MATTER
William L. Martin
During the November 1994 general election a tidal wave swept through the small fishing fleets of Florida. The tidal wave took the form of a two-to-one voter approval of the Limiting Marine Net Fishing Amendment (Amendment) to the Florida Constitution. Following the passage of the Amendment, outraged commercial shrimp and mullet fishermen flocked to Tallahassee to protest the net ban. They claimed that the ban would put them out of work, violating their right to due process and equal protection under the United States Constitution. They also contended that voters did not fully understand the Amendment before voting on it because they were never told of the possible economic impact of the ban. A spokesman for Governor Lawton Chiles claimed that the disruptions would be charged but peaceful because the real fight over the net ban was being fought in court. However, the court battle over the language of the net ban amendment had already been waged and the commercial fishermen of Florida had failed to put up a fight. Earlier, when the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments over the validity of the Limiting Marine Net Fishing initiative before it was voted on, no briefs were filed in opposition.
THE FLORIDA CONSTITUTION: STILL CHAMPION OF CITIZENS’ RIGHTS?
Rachel E. Fugate
There are some ideas that seem self-apparent, such as the notion that states may interpret their own constitutions to expand individual rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The idea that the federal Constitution represents the “floor” for individual rights and that states may set the “ceiling” is beyond dispute.2 However, there is a lively debate on whether state courts should first look to their own constitutions when resolving issues, termed the primacy method of analysis,3 or defer to the interpretations of the United States Supreme Court.4 This debate is most heated in the criminal procedure area because of the activism of the Warren Court and the retrenchment from that activism by the Burger and Rehnquist courts.5 The controversy has been heightened by recent assertions of state court independence and an increased willingness for the Supreme Court to review these decisions.6 At the debate’s core are historical notions of federalism that have been brought into question, creating the term “new federalism.”