TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The NAACP's lawsuit over Florida's disputed 2000 presidential election appears headed for a close as the state and two counties -- the only remaining defendants -- have agreed to a settlement, attorneys said Tuesday.
Joe Klock, an attorney for the state, told U.S. District Judge Alan Gold that all parties promised to file final papers by Friday for approval. Attorneys would not discuss terms of the settlement.
The class-action lawsuit filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other civil rights groups argued voters were disenfranchised during the on Nov. 7, 2000 election; it included allegations that blacks were kept from voting in some counties.
The state and Orange and Hillsborough counties were the only holdouts in the lawsuit. Miami-Dade, Broward, Leon, Volusia and Duval counties settled earlier rather than face trial.
Provisions of those settlements included sweeping modifications to voter registration, voter-roll maintenance and polling practices. They also required counties to improve election day communications between precincts and election headquarters and in some cases guaranteed foreign language-speaking workers would be at the polls to assist voters.
After a legal battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, President Bush's 537-vote margin over Al Gore in Florida swung the outcome for the presidency.
The state had argued the Legislature adequately addressed problems by standardizing recount rules, eliminating punch card voting systems and allowing provisional balloting. But plaintiffs argued Florida had still not done enough to avoid wrongfully turn away voters.
A settlement would eliminate the likelihood of unflattering headlines from a trial projected to last through parts of Gov. Jeb Bush's re-election campaign.
With new laws and new voting equipment in place, the Sept. 10 primary will be the first big test of Florida's updated election machinery.