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State nixes UF student union as early voting site

Election supervisors and the League of Women Voters have a new complaint with Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature over early voting.

After years of complaints by supervisors who struggled with historically long lines at the polls in 2012, lawmakers last year expanded the list of early voting sites to include fairgronds, civic centers, courthouses, county commission buildings, stadiums, convention centers and government-owned community centers.

But when the city of Gainesville -- which is heavily Democratic -- asked if it could use the University of Florida student union for early voting in next month's municipal elections, the state said no.

"The Reitz Union is a structure designed for, and affiliated with, a specific educational institution," says an advisory opinion from Maria Matthews, director of the state Division of Elections, which is run by a Scott appointee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. "The terms 'convention center' and 'government-owned community center' cannot be construed so broadly as to include the Reitz Union."

The opinion noted that the 2013 Legislature rejected an amendment that would have further expanded the definition of early voting sites to include "educational facilities."

"I'm very upset about this," said Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards, president of a statewide supervisors' group. "I just can't understand why they feel the need to be so restrictive about where people are allowed to vote ... This is strategic. They're worried about young people voting."

The union, named for former UF President J. Wayne Reitz, is used as a regular voting precinct in county, state and national elections. About 50,000 students attend UF, and the city said the request to use the Reitz Union for early voting came from a group of students.

With the UF student union now off limits, the city plans to use two early voting sites for the March 11 election, assistant city attorney Nicolle Shalley said. Each is more than five miles away.

Senate Ethics & Elections Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who sponsored SB 600, the 2013 law that expanded early voting sites, said: "No, no, we really did not specifically allow for them to be on campus." He noted that the law allows for the use of one "bonus" site in an area underserved by other sites, but Shalley said that provision did not apply to Gainesville.

Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters, called it "jaw dropping to consider that we wouldn't open up the student union, the student library and other buildings on campus to make it easier for our leaders of tomorrow to start their civic duty of voting. One can only be left with the impression that the Florida Legislature, Governor and Secretary of State would frankly prefer to discourage student participation."

 

Comments

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Ed Jenkins

The readers vote do not vote in distant counties so there should be no reason for this article to appear in a hometown paper. Please remove this author from the Herald staff if he tries to publish this type of article in the future.

Can't take anymore

In just a few months Florida voters will have the opportunity to throw the crooked Rick Scott out of office. They can also make sure his lackeys like Ken Detzner and Maria Matthews never receive another state paycheck. Scott's political career has many parallels to his private industry career: organized crime protected by squads of attorneys and hiding behind the 5th Amendment.

Bill McCollum

Let the people vote and impeach Bill Clinton!

Ed Jenkins' Wife

Ed does not like these distant stories because he has not left the house in the last 20 years. He has grown too fat old and lazy.
Someone please help me.

Hmmmm

The union is used as a regular voting precinct in county, state and national elections.

So this just applies to early voting? Which is now expanded from prior years, but does not include this one location in Gainesville - or similar locations in other universities - based on this opinion, and the fact the legislature specifically rejected an amendment to allow early voting at "educational facilities".

Divorce lawyer

Wife get out now before its too late!

Bill Thompson

This is all part of Scott and the GOP's plan to make it harder for students and others to vote specifically because they more than likely may not be his supporters. They are probably more likely to vote for the medical marijuana amendment also.

Scott and the ruling elites in Tallahassee should run a clean and fair election and win the election based on the issues. Don't try to game the system to your advantage. You tried it in 2012; it backfired on you and it will backfire again this year. Voters don't like their voting rights tampered with.

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