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Congressional Testimony of LatinoJustice PRLDEF on Voting Rights in Florida

Congressional Testimony of LatinoJustice PRLDEF on Voting Rights in Florida

Article Author: 
Miami, FL

Juan Cartagena

Juan Cartagena
President & General Counsel

"There is an urgent need today … to analyze the intersection of police reforms, changes in the penal system and drug policy in this country. In reality, Latinos are disproportionately and negatively affected by police and criminal system practices that discriminate against them but rarely involve them in forging solutions."

One of the nation’s leading voices on equality and nondiscrimination, Constitutional and Civil Rights Attorney Juan Cartagena inspires change to systems that marginalize communities of color. As a public speaker, El Diario columnist, and Rutgers University lecturer, Juan focuses extensively on Puerto Rican and Latino rights issues, including the community impacts of mass incarceration.

Juan is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia University School of Law and is the recipient of multiple recognitions, including Dartmouth College’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Justice Award, and the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute’s Cesar Chavez Community Service Award. Juan lives in and represents the State of New Jersey, having previously served as a Municipal Court Judge in Hoboken and as General Counsel to the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey.

You can read Juan Cartagena's bi-weekly column in El Diario here.

Have a question for him or a thought about his articles? Tweet him @LJCartagena!

On behalf of LatinoJustice PRLDEF I thank Representative Fudge and the members of the Subcommittee on Elections for inviting me to testify on the important subject of voting rights in the State of Florida. While it is safe to say that full compliance with voter protections in any State, including Florida, is always a timely and critical endeavor, this topic, and indeed this hearing, is coming at an opportune time for democracy in this State. Demographic growth, and the changing racial and ethnic composition of the State, along with an expanded electorate created by changes in State law1 that belies decades of concerted practices to minimize the vote of eligible voters make Florida an important battleground for Voting Rights Act compliance. 

LatinoJustice PRLDEF (formerly known as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund) is a national civil rights, public interest law organization that represents Latinas and Latinos throughout the country in litigation and advocacy, and works to increase their entry into the legal profession. For over ten years we have actively litigated voting rights cases in Florida and for five years we have had a Southeast Regional Office in Orlando. In my capacity as President & General Counsel I have personally litigated Section 2 Voting Rights Act cases and National Voter Registration Act cases in federal courts here in Florida and I supervise a current case under Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act against 32 counties in this State. Finally, I have engaged in election protection efforts in several counties in Florida as well to ensure compliance with Voting Rights Act protections for Puerto Rican and other Latino voters. 

Demographic Changes and Contested Elections in Florida 
Florida occupies a unique place in recent years with respect to election administration and the energy and zeal that voters exert in the State. Much of that reputation stems from its booming population growth and the fact that in partisan terms it is a closely divided State. This latter point is important not from the lens of Republicans versus Democrats - LatinoJustice is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization - but for the mere fact that close elections place inordinate pressures on election administrators and are often the fuel that ignites Voting Rights Act abuses. 

Read the full testimony here or embedded below