State Sen. Keith Perry (District 8, Republican) said he will make it his job to bring early voting locations to colleges and universities as he and other local politicians debated how to get college students to vote early.
“I’m not the smartest guy out there, but I work really hard to get stuff done,” the representative for Alachua County told an audience of about 75 at Pugh Hall on Wednesday.
Perry, who read a draft of a bill to the audience, said he will propose it to address the need in November. Current Florida Statutes don’t mention colleges or universities as designated early voting locations, but don’t forbid them. A student organization has been trying to change that.
Gators for Underrepresented Voters started a petition in January to allow early voting on campus. The group partnered with others to host the Let Students Vote forum, where Perry spoke, on how to get early voting on campus.
In 2014, the City of Gainesville sent an inquiry letter to Gov. Rick Scott’s administration regarding whether the Reitz Union could be used as an early voting center. In an advisory opinion responding to Gainesville’s request, Maria Matthews of the Florida Division of Elections said educational facilities are excluded from its list of possible early voting centers, according to Alligator archives.
But not having an early voting polling location may stop students from participating, said Hannah Daigle, the Gators for Underrepresented Voters public relations manager. She said some may not be able to get to the Supervisor of Elections office downtown or other early voting locations.
“Thirty minutes can be make or break,” the 18-year-old said. “Having an early voting location on campus is really the only way to get the voter turnout we’re looking for.”
City Commissioner David Arreola said he’d be in favor of having shuttles or RTS transportation set up to help students get to voting locations but thinks it would only help marginally.
“I think what you want to see is the most convenient path for the voter,” Arreola said.
Jack Golio, a UF political science freshman, said he was surprised at how few early voting locations there are in the county. In the most recent city election, there were three early voting locations.
“I feel like we’re not focusing on the right thing, which is lack of funding in early voting locations and this idea that certain people deserve to vote because they can take time out of their day,” the 19-year-old said.
County Commissioner Ken Cornell said the county had asked the Supervisor of Elections office about opening a location at UF before. Cornell said he hopes to see an early voting space soon and would propose a county resolution of support.
“You have a voice,” Cornell said to the audience made up of mostly students. “However we can help you have that voice be heard louder, this commissioner is in favor of.”