The Reitz Union will not be affected by new restrictions on early voting.
Florida lawmakers are limiting early voting locations based on parking availability, which significantly affects college campuses. However, the Reitz Union has an adequate number of parking spaces, said Kim A. Barton, Alachua County supervisor of elections.
The Union was added as an early voting location in 2018 for the general election. The location was the third highest in voters, with 7,899, in the county. Ahead was the Millhopper Library with 12,901 voters and Tower Road Library in second with 10,075, Barton said.
“Normally my office is up there, but the Reitz Union even beat us,” Barton said.
Barton said the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections works well with UF administration, and during the 2018 election, they had staff monitoring the parking spots. If they need additional spots in the 2020 election, they will address it when the time comes.
“We’ve talked about it since this bill has been passed, and we don’t see an issue,” Barton said.
Barton said the union is popular because it’s convenient for those who work and live near campus, but also for the students and faculty who can walk there.
“Not everyone that's coming to early vote needs to utilize the parking spaces,” Barton said.
In July 2018, federal Judge Mark Walker announced the approval of college campuses being utilized as early voting sites.
“The judge announced the early voting injunction that morning, and I was working on my letter to President Fuchs that afternoon,” Barton said.
Barton said the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections was one of the first offices that reached out to the college in an agreement to have early voting at the Reitz.
“We have such a wonderful working relationship with the administration,” Barton said. “And we don't think that having that this portion of the bill passed is going to be a barrier to the youth to turn out to vote.”
Caroline Cooper, a 21-year-old UF English senior, is a registered voter in Florida.
Although she votes in her hometown, Jacksonville, and is not planning on using the Union location, she thinks it’s an important option for students.
She said she feels many students take this location for granted, including herself.
“I think that having the Reitz Union as a location for early voting is essential and should be valued,” Cooper said.
Nestor Garcia, a 21-year-old industrial engineer major, attends the early voting session on Oct. 22, 2018, at the J. Wayne Reitz Union to vote for the first time.