Groups sue Florida over early voting on college campuses
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Voting rights advocates accused Florida officials of attempting to stifle turnout among young voters, contending in federal court that new elections rules could make it impossible to hold early voting on college campuses.
An elections package signed into law last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis now requires early voting sites to have “sufficient non-permitted parking.” Critics contend the language would virtually ban polling sites on college campuses because of their restrictive parking rules.
Court documents filed Monday update a case from last year challenging a policy put in place by former Secretary of State Ken Detzner barring early voting on college campuses. Eight young voters joined the League of Women Voters of Florida and other groups in challenging Detzner’s interpretation of state election law.
Detzner had argued that campus parking restrictions make them unsuitable as early polling places. But a U.S. District Court judge hearing the earlier case in Tallahassee issued a preliminary injunction siding with the students, prompting the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature to include the parking language in this year’s elections package.
“Many of those students don’t even have cars. It’s a no-brainer for us to make it easier for students to vote,” said Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.
“This was never about parking. It was always about giving access to polls to college students on campus,” Brigham said.
Monday’s court filings, which updated the earlier case to address the new parking requirements, was the latest development in campaigns over ballot box access that mostly pit voting rights advocates against Republican-dominated state governments.
Although the current secretary of state, Laurel M. Lee, was named in the updated suit, she did not have a direct hand in drafting the law. Nevertheless, it would be up to her to enforce it. Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Democrats are counting on young voters, who they see as more sympathetic to the progressive causes they champion, to help influence the outcome of key races in a state that both major parties consider crucial.
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