By Brad Friedman on 2/7/2014, 1:10pm PT  

Ian Millhiser notes today that Florida Gov. Rick Scott's hand-picked Sec. of State Ken Detzner is still working hard to keep certain voters there from voting in the upcoming special election in March.

While both Scott and Detzner had once pretended to be embarrassed about the long lines they caused (and refused to correct) at the polls during the 2012 election, it turns out, even with Scott facing re-election this year, the pair are still working hard to suppress the vote in the Sunshine State...

Gainesville, Florida, in an attempt to avoid the six-hour lines that characterized last Election Day, sought approval to use the University of Florida's student union as an early voting site. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner denied the request, sparking outrage.

Detzner justified the decision by claiming that the Reitz student union does not fit the list of eligible early voting sites, which was expanded last year to reduce lines. Now, municipalities can use fairgrounds, government-owned community centers, convention centers, stadiums, courthouses, civic centers, and county commission buildings. "The terms 'convention center' and 'government-owned community center' cannot be construed so broadly as to include the Reitz Union," the state's Division of Elections argued.

Local officials contend that the Reitz Union qualifies as a government-owned community center, as it is part of a public university.

"I'm very upset about this," Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards told the Tampa Bay Times. "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."

Instead, UF students will have to travel more than five miles off campus in order to cast their vote in the March special election --- a difficult trip for a mostly car-less population.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the Reitz student union 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."

Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters, called the decision "jaw dropping".

The Times quotes Senate Ethics & Elections Chairman Jack Latvala (R), described as the sponsor of SB 600, "the 2013 law that expanded early voting sites", claiming that "we really did not specifically allow for [early voting sites] to be on campus."

However, HB 7013 (the companion bill in the FL House to SB 600, the one that was actually passed and signed into law) says nothing about disallowing early voting cites that are on campus. It reads specifically (see page 25 [PDF])...

The supervisor may also designate any city hall, permanent public library facility, fairground, civic center, courthouse, county commission building, stadium, convention center, government-owned senior center, or government-owned community center as early voting sites; however, if so designated, the sites must be geographically located so as to provide all voters in the county an equal opportunity to cast a ballot, insofar as is practicable. In addition, a supervisor may designate one early voting site per election in an area of the county that does not have any of the eligible early voting locations. Such additional early voting site must be geographically located so as to provide all voters in that area with an equal opportunity to cast a ballot, insofar as is practicable.

It would hardly be the first time Scott and Detzner managed to piss off local election officials in recent years. In 2012, by way of just one example, their attempted purge of supposed "non-citizen" voters (who actually weren't) sparked outrage among many of the state's county election officials. And, more recently, just last December, they faced a veritable mutiny by many of those county Supervisors of Elections (both Republican and Democratic), after Detzner issued a decree changing the rules for absentee ballot casting at the last minute to make it --- you guessed it --- harder for voters to cast their votes.

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