Jacksonville, FL — As early voting winds down across the First Coast for the Florida primary, Duval County’s Supervisor of Elections is vowing to try to open early voting sites on two college campuses for the November election.
And he says he doesn’t need more funding to do it.
A recent court ruling allows college campuses to now be used for early voting sites in Florida, but does not require it. There has been a passionate push in the community to add the locations, despite there not being a mandate. With an early voting site right across the street from Jacksonville University, the focus of the push has been the University of North Florida and Edward Waters College.
“Putting in two new sites, in the middle of two elections, is a logistical nightmare,” says Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan.
During a City Council Finance Committee hearing on the Supervisor’s budget, Hogan told Council members that the request from people in the community and some on Council has led him to pull some staff from focusing on the ongoing election, to start studying this issue. Based on the general metrics they use- population density, growth, and related areas- he says they don’t believe there is a need for a new early voting site, except potentially the Bayard area. Despite that, he says they’ve been working on the potential to establish early voting on the two campus locations for the November election.
By shifting around some salary dollars and tapping federal funds for equipment purchases, Hogan told the Committee he wouldn’t need more funds for this goal.
“We think we found the money to do two sites, but the logistics of that is what’s troubling us,” Hogan says.
He says it will be relatively easy to establish early voting at EWC, because there is already an Election Day precinct on the campus. While there are different equipment demands on Election Day, versus early voting, he says it puts them in a better position.
UNF is more challenging, although Hogan says the campus representatives he’s been working with are passionate about finding a solution. He says he is trying to figure out early voting there, although there are other options being considered. He says they’re looking at whether shuttles can be set up to take students to the Southeast Regional Library a few miles away, which is used for early voting. They’re also considering increasing their presence on the campus for the month ahead of an election, to encourage registration and vote-by-mail efforts, while also exploring using students as poll workers or interns.
City Councilman Garrett Dennis is the leading voice on the push for this expansion, having spent 15 years in the Supervisor of Elections office himself. He thanked Hogan for the efforts, while adding he hopes to see that pay off in November.