JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A federal judge could ultimately decide where the Supervisor of Elections moves its warehouse. We first told you two weeks ago the city council approved the plan to move to a warehouse at One Imeson.
On Monday the owners of Gateway Shopping Center asked a federal court to reject the city council's action. Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland says opponents of the move are making many claims that aren't based on fact.
"You know, that we're going to disenfranchise voters when in reality there's no voting that's going to take place in One Imeson," says Holland.
Congresswoman Corrine Brown tells the Times Union she strongly supports the lawsuit.
Holland says the Gateway owners are just trying to delay the process of moving until after it's too late to do so before the 2014 elections.
According to the complaint, Gateway officials argue that its 10 year lease offer would save taxpayers more than the move to the warehouse at One Imeson but Holland says that's only if the leases started at the same time, and he says they don't.
Jason Isaacson is president of IP Capital, the group that owns One Imeson...he says the owners of the Gateway Mall are simply trying to get their way.
"This lawsuit is simply a bully trying to bully his way into getting the outcome that he wants.
Isaacson says it's not just the cost of rent but also things like energy cost and useable space, both of which he says are reasons why the city council voted for Imeson instead.
Steven Bittel chairs the Terranova Corp, which owns Gateway Mall, he says the Imeson lease contains features that violates freedom of speech, not to mention he says moving from Gateway would disenfranchise voters in that area.
A phone hearing on the injunction is scheduled for today.
We received the following statement from Jacksonville Congresswoman Corrine Brown:
In support of the lawsuit filed by Terranova Corporation, which seeks injunctive relief to prevent Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown from signing a new lease to relocate the Supervisor of Elections Office from Gateway Shopping Center to One Imeson Center at Imeson Park Boulevard, Congresswoman Corrine Brown made the following statement:
“As I have said from the outset, it is blatantly clear why the Supervisor of Elections decided to move the elections office out of the Gateway Shopping Center: to disenfranchise African American voters in Duval County! The message this move sends to my constituents is that the city of Jacksonville does not care about them or their vote, and in fact, that city officials will do everything they can to make it as difficult as possible for African Americans to vote in upcoming elections.
Gateway, an easily accessible voting site, is adjacent to I-95, a short distance to Main Street, and houses a major public transportation hub, allowing for easy public access. The warehouse on Imeson Blvd., on the other hand, is not even accessible via public transportation, nor is it visible to members of the community. Clearly, moving the center will only serve to undermine already low confidence area residents have in the city’s election system, and seen as a further attempt to suppress their vote.
Moreover, contrary to the flawed arguments of Jacksonville’s Elections Supervisor and his allies, Gateway offers the lowest cost to city taxpayers. Why? The rent is lower, there are no moving costs, early termination of the lease is cheaper, and the city has already invested over $1.3 million in improvements to the Gateway Elections Office. Additionally, Terranova, Gateway’s owner, plans to invest $1.2 million in improvements to this Election Office location without any charge to residents of the city of Jacksonville.
The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. And the City of Jacksonville needs to protect this constitutional right for all city residents, while working to prevent any and all infringements of those rights. Allowing the Supervisor of Elections office to remain at Gateway would be a very positive step in the right direction.”