Indications are that the 57,000 students at Florida International University will get their early-voting site after all.
There is no official statement from Miami-Dade County confirming the reversal, but elections employees visited the university’s Modesto Maidique campus in southwest Miami-Dade last week looking for appropriate sites to set up a voting area — a big hint that the voting machines are coming to campus.
The university told the Miami Herald Editorial Board that four sites are being considered and one will be selected, likely within or near the main University Park building.
This is a welcome move by the county and Mayor Carlos Gimenez who quickly decided to take a second look following complaints raised by students and institutions like the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union. No one wants to be accused of preventing young people from voting. We realize it’s a costly measure for taxpayers, the county’s main concern, but it’s worth it.
Will the FIU site be the only on-campus polling location opened by the county? At Miami Dade College, a spokesman said there has been no visit from county employees to set up voting machines. “We’re waiting and hopeful,” said Juan Mendieta.
The demand for local early voting sites for public colleges and universities began when the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections announced the sites earlier this month and FIU and MDC were not on the list, even though back in 2014 FIU had been an early voting site. Student activists went to work.
Florida law permits sites to be named up to 30 days prior to an election, which means the deadline to make changes would be Oct. 7, weeks away. Student and community activists held rallies and asked the county to reconsider. They wrote opinion pieces and letters to the editor to the Miami Herald. That’s the way democracy and activism work.
“At first, we thought the county would never make the change, but now I think they will,” said a hopeful Briana Perez, an outreach coordinator for All Voting is Local at FIU. The effort is statewide. The Andrew Goodman Foundation — along with the League of Women Voters and six college students — filed a lawsuit to make on-campus early voting in Florida a reality.
In July, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker allowed Florida’s Supervisors of Elections to place early-voting sites on college and university campuses. The injunction invalidated a 2014 opinion, by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, which banned early voting on campuses, saying age-based discrimination in the selection of polling locations is unconstitutional.
“There is absolutely no excuse for Miami-Dade not to do it when every other major county in Florida was able to accommodate early-polling locations on their flagship institutions’ campuses. This growing list includes University of Florida, Florida State University, Florida A&M University, University of Central Florida, University of Southern Florida, and most recently Florida Atlantic University,” wrote Maydee Martinez, another student activist in an opinion article to the Herald. She was right.
Martinez has also been working to get students registered to vote. We realize that that effort would be diluted without an easily available site for students to vote. Yes, this fits the belief that young voters won’t go far to actually vote on Election Day. An early voting site on campus may persuade them to take a second and cast a vote.
All this is playing out in South Florida, where the Parkland school shooting has sparked student activism and youth voting drives — all with the purpose of voting out elected officials who do not support gun control measures. It appears there is a happy ending here.
Let’s see democracy in action.