Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan says he is talking to the University of North Florida about a potential early voting site on the campus for the November elections, but it’s unlikely to happen due to logistical issues.
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 an 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 this month’s primaries because supervisors of elections are required to publicize their early voting sites at least 30 days before elections begin. Hogan had already posted Duval’s early voting sites because early voting was scheduled to begin in the county on Monday, Aug. 13.
And Hogan said it’s not likely to happen by the November elections either. He said in addition to UNF, he’s been asked to open a site at historically black Edward Waters College.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said. “We might be able to pull this one off, but we’ve gotta do all our homework, and we’ve gotta do it in a hurry.”
Hogan said he’s not yet convinced it would be worth the money and effort.
“I’ve been in contact with the University of North Florida,” Hogan said. “We’ve met, physically, once, and we’re trying to work out some type of arrangement that will enhance voting opportunities for the students on the college campus.”
But he said that might not mean an actual early voting site on the campus.
“One of the things we’re talking about is maybe providing a shuttle from the student center to the early voting site, if it’s off campus.” He went on to say, “Maybe we’ll send a crew over there that will allow students to sign up for mail ballots. In Duval County we pay for the return postage. There are a host of things we’re looking at.”
Hogan said when it comes down to it, the decision will depend on the size and density of the UNF voting population.
UNF officials say nearly 3,400 students live on campus. That’s out of a total population of almost 16,500 - making UNF a commuter school, for the most part. That means most students wouldn’t be voting on campus anyways. They’d be voting in their neighborhoods or wherever they live.
And even if Hogan and UNF officials agree to set up an early voting site and they’re somehow able to hash out the details before the site posting deadline, which is Oct. 7, several logistical issues could still keep things from materializing before November.
One is money.
The Supervisor of Elections doesn’t have room in his budget to add any new sites, he said. But, the city is going through the budget process now and Hogan thinks the Council would agree to additional funding needed to cover salaries and equipment that would be required at any new sites.
Another issue is the equipment.
“I just had them do an inventory of equipment. We have enough equipment, if we had to open two new sites.” said Hogan. “But, we have no backups. And in elections you have to have backups, because, again, there’s no tomorrow. Everything has to be done that day.”
And Hogan said if he were to order new equipment, it could take two to three weeks for it to arrive if it’s even in stock. And, according to Hogan, “This is a time when their stock is depleted because everybody’s asking for stuff.”
“I want to make it perfectly clear that we enjoy the fact that we have another option on our list.” said Hogan. “And it’s not that we don’t want to do this, it’s that we don’t think we’ve got the time and the resources to get it done considering where we are in this election cycle.”