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The state and two Florida counties filed papers Tuesday to settle a federal lawsuit by civil rights groups alleging widespread voting problems during the disputed 2000 presidential election. Hillsborough and Orange counties, and the state of Florida, were the final defendants in the case, which ended without trial. Five other counties settled earlier. David Host, spokesman for the state Division of Elections, released a joint statement saying both sides were pleased to announce “a fair and equitable settlement.” “It’s a long time coming. We’re glad to finally be here,” said Thomasina Williams, an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Voters had claimed in the class action lawsuit that they were disenfranchised during the election. Key provisions of the settlement would create a state coordinator for election law compliance, report on future election day problems, correct mistakes in a purge of convicted felons from voting rolls and expand voter rights on provisional ballots. There were no admissions of wrongdoing. Plaintiffs’ attorneys said the settlement goes beyond laws adopted since the state became the butt of jokes over the infamous butterfly ballot, hanging chads and antiquated punchcard voting equipment. The new coordinator would devote at least three-quarters of his or her time to looking for election problems and solutions, and to producing reports before and after elections. Plaintiffs’ attorney Anita Hodgkiss said she does not expect the settlement to be in effect before the November general election because the Justice Department likely will review it. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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