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Voter disenfranchisement claims won't lead to new early voting site in House 114 Primary



Update: White's office has agreed to open a fourth early voting location at the West Flagler Branch Library for the May 1 special election.

Despite mounting political pressure and threats of legal action, Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Christina White says she will not -- or rather can not -- open a new early voting precinct ahead of a looming primary election for a Miami-area state House seat.

In an email Thursday to the chairmen of the Miami-Dade Republican and Democratic parties, White said state law does not allow her to suddenly move to open a fourth early voting precinct at the West Flagler Branch Library in West Miami ahead of the Republican primary for Florida's House District 114. Jose Pazos and Andrew Vargas face off Feb. 20.

Her email followed a vote by Miami Commissioners to urge her to open the extra precinct on the grounds that, unlike the areas surrounding precincts in Pinecrest, Coral Gables and Cutler Bay, the majority of voters in West Miami are elderly and on a fixed income or "working multiple jobs to survive."

There are about 100,000 voters in the district, and the state of Florida pays for special election costs.

The commission's resolution followed threats last month by the Miami-Dade Republican Party to file an injunction to force White to open the additional early voting precinct, although their concerns seemed to be focused on the May 1 special election, when the Republican nominee will face off with Democrat Javier Fernandez. Initially, the party argued that she was favoring Democrats by establishing precincts in more affluent, liberal areas of the district, but they later argued that West Miami voters are in danger of being disenfranchised.

White's office quickly responded Thursday following the vote by the Miami Commission, telling both parties it was too late due to requirements under state law to create a new early voting precinct. Florida statutes require that  early voting precincts be designated 30 days before an election, she noted.

"Therefore, I am unable to make any changes to the early voting calendar for the February 20, 2018 Special Primary Election, which starts this Saturday," White wrote in an email.

But White said she remained open to discussion about the May 1 special election, even though she has said that her office has already reviewed its voting locations and demographics in order to ensure the proper and fair placement of early voting precincts.

"If I do not hear from you by close of business on Monday, February 12th, I will assume your Party believes that an additional site in this area is not necessary for this election," she wrote.