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ACLU, Duval Voter Advocates Call On Elections Supervisor To Place Early Voting Sites On College Campuses

Several people walking on a sidewalk lined with campaign signs
Lynne Sladky
Students walk past campaign signs next to an early voting site on the Miami Dade College campus, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, in Miami. Early voting is available for the first time on the campuses of Florida's major state colleges and universities. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The American Civil Liberties Union and Duval County voter advocates are calling for early voting sites to be placed at the University of North Florida and Edward Waters College. Earlier this year, the League of Women Voters Florida settled with the state clearing the way for college campuses to be used as voting precincts.

During the 2018 gubernatorial election, there were 20 early voting sites open in Duval County. This year two of those were moved. They were located at the University of North Florida and Edward Waters College.

“We demand voting sites on our campus and other campuses be restored,” said Tionna Seabrook with Students for a Democratic Society at UNF.

Seabrook says having early voting on campuses gives students the ability to quickly and easily vote.

"Students are going to need flexibility in ensuring they can participate in the election while balancing academics, work, family and honestly just living during the pandemic," said Seabrook.

On-campus voting sites are also a boost for students who don’t have their own means of transportation. Seabrook says vote-by-mail, which has been heavily encouraged during the global pandemic, isn’t a direct solution. Florida New Majority’s Mone Holder says people between 18 and 21 have the highest rates of ballot rejections.

"We know that 18 to 21-year-olds had the highest vote by mail rejection rate of any demographic 5.4% statewide, and in Duval County over 7% in the prior 2018 general election, said Holder. "That is huge."

Holder thinks it is safer for students to vote early and in person.

"Early voting sites on college campuses are one of the most common sense ways to address Florida’s biggest disparity in vote-by-mail rejection rates," said Holder."

Vote-by-mail ballots of African Americans are also more likely to get rejected. But Duval Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan believes he’s made the right choice. Citing low turnoutat both sites in 2018.

"UNF and Edward Waters College had the lowest turnout of all of our twenty early voting sites and they also had the lowest turnout in the state for colleges," said Hogan.

Hogan says he moved the early voting sites to nearby locationsto give more people access to them, not just college students. And he points out one of those new locations, the Prime Osborn Convention Center, is directly across the street from the Jacksonville Transit Authorities Hub, the local bus station.

"We like that because it was a dual purpose we’re picking up some population that is a little bit south of that northern area but we’re not really getting out of the northern area," said Hogan. "Then we have a site for folks that don’t have their own transportation can take a bus and walk right across the street and vote."

That’s not good enough for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Sam Coodley, who believes Hogan can do more to allow for safe and secure voting.

"We absolutely believe that Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan can do far more to be responsive to the community and in particular we’re really alarmed that he has chosen to eliminate these early voting sites," said Coodley. "Because you can’t simply transport students on a bus to a nearby voting site during a pandemic."

Coodley says the low rate of success with vote-by-mail ballots paired with eliminating early voting sites from college campuses has them worried that many students’ vote won’t count this November.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.