Howard Simon has been a state affiliate Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for almost four decades. He is the ACLU’s most senior Affiliate Director. Howard has served as Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida since October 1997, and prior to his appointment as Florida ACLU Director he served as Executive Director of ACLU’s Michigan affiliate for 23 years. Howard was raised in New York, and graduated from the City College of New York. He received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Minnesota in legal and political philosophy and social ethics. Prior to his work with the ACLU, he taught philosophy at the University of Minnesota and was a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at DePauw University in Indiana.
As Executive Director of the Florida affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, Howard has overall responsibility for ACLU’s legal, public education, legislative lobbying, and membership and fund-raising programs. Howard has been a frequent guest editorial writer in many Florida newspapers, and regularly appears in the media challenging politicians and government policies that assault constitutional freedoms. The ACLU of Florida has approximately 15,000 members, a staff of 30 and maintains staffed offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola, and Tampa in addition to its headquarters in Miami. The ACLU has been extensively involved in addressing the need for electoral reforms in Florida. Following the voting problems that occurred in the 2006 Congressional District 13 Election in Sarasota, the ACLU played a key role in securing the end of the use of paperless electronic voting systems in Florida, leading to the 2008 election in which every county used the same voting technology (the optical scan voting system) for the first time. The organization has also led efforts to end Florida’s Civil War constitutional provision requiring a lifetime voting ban of former felons.
The ACLU of Florida is in the forefront of efforts to resist many of the anti-civil liberties initiatives originating from the Legislature and the Scott Administration. The ACLU filed numerous cases challenging efforts to make it more difficult to register new voters, reduce the number of early voting days, specifically banning voting on the Sunday prior to the Tuesday November Election, and more difficult to have your voted counted by requiring more people to vote by provisional, rather than regular ballot. The ACLU has challenged the Governor’s Executive Order mandating drug/urine screen tests for state employees in the absence of suspicion of illicit drugs. Another ACLU lawsuit resulted in a federal order blocking the law requiring all applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy families (TANF) to submit to a suspicionless drug/urine test.