Duval Elections Supervisor To City Council: There Will Be Early Voting At UNF, EWC

Sep 17, 2018

Story updated on 9/17 at 4:55 p.m. with comment from Hogan.

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan emailed City Council President Aaron Bowman Sunday evening saying his office will be opening additional early voting sites at the campuses of the University of North Florida and Edward Waters College this November.

“Both sites will be open to all eligible registered Duval County voters. These two additional sites will provide Duval County voters access to 20 Early Voting locations,” Hogan said in the email.

He said funding for the two sites will be absorbed within his current budget.

Last month Hogan told WJCT adding additional college campus voting sites would be unlikely due to logistical issues including acquiring more voting equipment in a timely manner and state deadlines. 

“There were a lot of issues that we had to climb over so it would have been irresponsible of me to say ‘yes we’re going to get that done.’ And I don’t feel comfortable saying ‘we think we can get that done,’ “ Hogan said in a phone interview Monday.

He was also awaiting the ruling on a suit against 32 Florida counties including Duval, saying they should provide Spanish-language ballots. A judge ruled earlier this month elections offices will have to provide Spanish sample ballots. Hogan calls the ruling "horrendous," but said it could  have been worse for his office if the ruling had determined election ballots would have to be printed in both languages. 

Hogan said with the ruling in, and getting the voting equipment in time, UNF and EWC will be early voting sites for the general election. 

Council member Garrett Dennis had filed a bill to dedicate $30,000 from the city’s operating contingency budget to fund the two additional college sites. But after receiving Hogan’s letter he asked for the bill to be withdrawn at Monday’s neighborhoods, community service, public health and safety committee.

However council member Tommy Hazouri was skeptical because no one from the elections office was present at the meeting to speak about the committment. He's requested a representative from the office be present when Dennis' bill is up for withdrawl at tomorrow's rules committee meeting. City legislation is often heard by more and one committee before a full Council decision. 

"I just want to make sure that we're not going to get the Texas two-step on it and then find out that we're not getting those early voting sites," Hazouri said. 

Local elections officials, like Hogan, have been put under pressure to get early voting sites on college and university campuses across the state. That comes after Secretary of State Ken Detzner told a federal judge that Florida would comply with a July 24 order that struck down a policy barring early voting sites on college and university campuses.

The ruling resolved questions over a 2014 advisory opinion by state Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews, advising elections supervisors that a 2013 law expanding early voting sites to various public facilities didn’t apply to colleges or universities.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, the Andrew Goodman Foundation and six University of Florida and Florida State University students filed a lawsuit challenging that guideline earlier this year.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker sided with those students and the voting-rights groups when he found that the Department of State’s ban against campus early-voting sites was “facially discriminatory on account of age.” While Walker’s ruling doesn’t require voting sites on college and university campuses, it makes it clear they are an option.

But the ruling came too late to get early voting sites set up at college and university campuses before last month’s primaries because supervisors of elections are required to publicize their early voting sites at least 30 days before elections begin.

Duval County early voting begins Oct. 22. 

Brendan Rivers contributed to this story.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride