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Crist says he'll meet with UF students over state's rejection of campus center as early voting site

Criticizing the state's decision to block the University of Florida's student union as an early voting site, Charlie Crist posted a Facebook notice Friday stating he'll meet with students and voters at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday at Turlington Plaza to discuss the issue. 

The posting follows a tweet from the Democratic candidate at 6:15 p.m. Thursday:  "This is an outrage," Crist tweeted. "Stay tuned on how we can protest Rick Scott's awful insult to every student & voter in the state."

To address complaints of long waits at polling sites in 2012 that attracted national attention, legislators last year expanded the list of early voting sites to include fairgrounds, civic centers, courthouses, county commission buildings, stadiums, convention centers and government-owned community centers.

In response to a request by the city of Gainesville to use the Reitz Union for early voting in March's municipal elections, Maria Matthews, director of the state Division of Elections, which is run by a Scott appointee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, wrote in an advisory opinion that "the terms 'convention center' and 'government-owned community center' cannot be construed so broadly as to include the Reitz Union."

Crist joins the growing number of critics blasting the state's decision, including the League of Women Voters, election supervisors and Democratic legislators.

In a statement Friday, House Minority Leader Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) said  “Governor Scott and state elections officials seem once again to be trying to suppress the vote of university students and other Floridians. I urge him to stop laying roadblocks to voting. The governor should do more to encourage, not discourage, voting among young people who are interested and engaged citizens.”

And in a letter sent Friday to Detzner, Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth,  wrote:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I write you to express my concern with a misinterpretation of statute from a bill that passed through the Florida Legislature last session, as it relates to voting at community centers.

 The bill we passed, which later was signed into law by the Governor, was very clear in stating that a “government-owned community center” is an acceptable location for early voting. It is somewhat inconceivable to me that we have somehow misinterpreted that direction.

The Reitz Union is government-owned, as the University of Florida is a public institution founded and funded by the state of Florida. The Reitz Union is also a community center, obviously.

There is no ambiguity in the statute, nor is there any in the public nature or purpose of the Reitz Union. The statute is crystal clear, straightforward and with no room for misinterpretation.

As a member of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee that formulated this bill, I ask that you immediately re-evaluate your unlawful decision to not allow voting at the Reitz Union and comply with law, which states that this public community center is unquestionably an allowable site for early voting.

Please respond as soon as possible.