Supervisors of elections can place early voting sites on college campuses for the 2020 election.

  • Directive follows settlement of 2019 lawsuit
  • Called "victory for Florida's college students"
  • More Politics headlines

That directive comes from Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee’s office, following a settlement of a 2019 lawsuit that claimed that an elections reform bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis would limit the access of younger voters to the polls.

That bill said that supervisors of elections could designate a variety of public places to be used as early voting sites, as long as they provided “sufficient non-permitted parking to accommodate the anticipated amount of voters.”

That language was seen by voting rights groups as a way to prevent the placing of early voting sites on college campuses, since having a sufficient amount of parking is frequently an issue there.  

The directive from Secretary Lee says that supervisors need not ensure that a certain number of non-permitted parking sites are available at every single early voting site. Instead, the directive says that supervisors can use a number of factors to determine how adequate the parking is on a campus before deciding on whether to place such a polling place there.

“Today’s announcement is a victory for Florida’s college students and for the communities that will have increased accessibility to polling places throughout the state,” said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, which provided litigation and financial support in the suit.

“We are gratified that once again the constitutional rights of our young voters have superseded partisan politics,” added Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

The League originally filed a lawsuit in 2018, challenging a 2014 announcement by then-Secretary of State Ken Detzner that prevented early voting sites on college campuses. The Andrew Goodman Foundation and eight young Florida voters were also original plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

A federal judge ruled later that year that the action was unconstitutional, and Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer and seven other supervisors of elections around the state decided to place early voting sites on college campuses. 

But the elections reform bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. DeSantis in 2019 included language that voting rights group perceived as being a poison pill that would prevent such polling places being installed on college campuses – which those groups perceived as being a measure to prevent young voters from going to the polls.

“In Polk county, we have not used local colleges for Early Voting sites in the past, but I’m happy to learn that using colleges is an allowable option,” said Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards. “As we prepare for the 2020 Primary and General Elections, flexibility will allow Florida’s Supervisors of Elections to best serve their voters.”