MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre created an unprecedented, massive wave of activism by young people.
Untold tens of thousands of young voters have been newly minted – and they got a boost when a federal judge ruled in July that a ban on early voting sites on college campuses is unconstitutional. Governor Rick Scott’s administration imposed that ban in 2016.
In his ruling declaring the ban illegal, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said: “throwing up roadblocks in front of younger voters does not remotely serve the public interest… abridging voter rights never does.”
At a news conference Thursday, students, voting rights activists, and civil rights activists called on Miami-Dade to provide on campus early voting sites for FIU and Miami-Dade students for the upcoming general election.
“When I think about young people today, and their newfound activism, I am so encouraged, and I feel that we must do everything that we can to support and assist them,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava.
But Miami-Dade so far has refused to create early voting sites on any college or university campuses.
“When we do show that we want to be involved, the people in power refuse to listen to us,” said FIU student Samantha Skhir at the news conference.
In a bipartisan showing, FIU’s young Democrats and Republicans made the case for voting on campus: Students often don’t have the time or means to travel to an early voting site.
“We’re preoccupied with classes, we’re preoccupied with tests as well as club affairs,” said Andres Solorzano, president of the FIU Student Republicans.
“Our goal, first and foremost, is just to get people involved in the political process,” added Student Democrats President Sabrina Priestly.
Miami-Dade says it just doesn’t have time to arrange early voting sites on campuses.
“The Miami-Dade County Elections Department has already confirmed its early voting sites for this election cycle, since preparations for large elections begin well in advance,” said Supervisor of Elections Christina White in a written statement.
In a subsequent statement, a department spokesperson stopped short of saying there will be campus voting sites in elections down the road. “Moving forward, the County will select early voting sites that are convenient for all registered voters,” spokesperson Suzy Trutie said in a text to CBS4 News.
Miami-Dade is alone with Jacksonville in not hustling to make on campus early voting happen. Broward will have polls in the libraries of three Broward College locations. Early voting will also be conducted at FAU, UCF, USF, UF, FSU and other colleges and universities across the state.
“It’s disappointing that Miami-Dade County hasn’t stepped up to the plate, and taken the leadership that other counties have,” said William Bravo of the voting activist group, Nextgen Miami.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it may go to court to force Miami-Dade to provide early voting on campuses.
“We hope that they will reconsider and do the correct thing,” said ACLU Assistant Director Melba Pearson. “But we are keeping all of our options open.”
In a late development Thursday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement that the county is “looking into” the possibility of providing early voting on campuses. At the same time, Gimenez said Miami-Dade has 25 early voting locations, more than any other county in the state.