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Judge: Rick Scott Can’t Suppress Early Voting on Florida Campuses

Dennis Carter

"With this decision, we have an affirmation that making early voting accessible to all is part of a true democracy," said Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) effort to end early voting on the state’s college campuses was ruled unconstitutional this week, as Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) was ordered to tell all 67 counties that campus facilities could be used for early voting this fall. 

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Tuesday ruled that a January 2014 opinion passed down by the Scott administration banning early voting at colleges and universities violated the U.S. Constitution. Walker in his opinion wrote that trying to end early voting at campus buildings “reveals a stark pattern of discrimination” in the Scott administration. 

The administration’s policy made college students “a secondary class of voters” in Florida, Walker wrote. 

“Throwing up roadblocks in front of younger voters does not remotely serve the public interest,” Walker wrote. “Abridging voting rights never does.”

Walker in his opinion mentioned the popularity of early voting, especially among young people and college students.

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More than 1.5 million Democratic voters and 1.4 million Republicans cast early ballots in Florida during the 2016 election. In Broward County, the state’s second-largest county, Democratic early voting outpaced Republican early voting 239,078 to 86,666.

Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Florida by more than 200,000, while affiliation with third parties has risen sharply since 2017.

Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida said Walker’s ruling against Scott’s voter suppression efforts constituted a victory for young voters across Florida. Her organization was a plaintiff in the case against the ban on early voting on campuses.

“The court ruling demonstrates that making it easier for our students to vote truly matters. This is the right decision, at the right time, for our democratic process,” Brigham said in a statement. “With this decision, we have an affirmation that making early voting accessible to all is part of a true democracy.”

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