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Orange County, UCF announce campus early voting site for general election

Fresh off July’s federal court ruling that Florida’s college campuses can host early voting sites, the University of Central Florida announced one will be open on its campus for the Nov. 6 election on the Orlando campus.

UCF and Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles announced Monday the Live Oak Event Center on the UCF campus will be used as an Orange County early voting center, starting Oct. 22 for the Nov. 6 election.

The campus center is the first since an order from state officials after 2014 to stop counties from running early voting centers on college campuses. State officials argued that the state-owned buildings could not be used. In July U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled otherwise, re-opening the state’s college and university campuses to county-wide early voting activity.

The last time UCF hosted an early-voting center was in 2014, when the university’s Barbara Ying Center was used. While that building may have provided convenience to voters outside the campus community, because it was right near a campus gate and had its own parking lot, university officials raised concerns that it was less convenient to students. This time UCF officials said they preferred a location in the heart of the campus so that it would be more convenient to students.

Cowles and UCF President Dale Whittaker announced last month they would work together to establish the new voting center in time for the general election, and the UCF Student Government Association worked with Cowles to find the location and sort out details.

Orange County-registered voters in the UCF community and others from outside campus will be able to vote there Monday, Oct. 22, through Sunday, Nov. 4.

“Engaging in our democracy is critical to becoming an educated, impactful citizen. Removing barriers for our students and staff is the right thing to do,” Whittaker stated in a news release issued by the university.

Parking spaces for outside voters will be set aside and marked with signage in Garage B, which is across Gemini Boulevard from the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center. A university official said parking attendants and signs would direct outsiders to the proper locations.

Three other Orange County early-voting centers nearby will remain in use, at the Alafaya, Chickasaw and Winter Park libraries, Cowles said.

The UCF campus abuts Seminole County, and many students and others live on the Seminole side of the county line. Many other students and others also might be registered to vote in their home counties. However, only those voters registered to vote in Orange County may cast ballots at the UCF center or the other early-voting centers in Orange County.

The renewal of early voting on the UCF campus ends a four-year ban that came from a 2014 advisory opinion by state Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews, which advised elections supervisors that a 2013 law expanding early voting sites to a variety of public facilities didn’t apply to college or university locales.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, the Andrew Goodman Foundation and six University of Florida and Florida State University students filed a lawsuit challenging the prohibition this year, leading to Walker’s ruling.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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