BY JIM SAUNDERS
NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE – As Gov. Ron DeSantis decides whether to sign an elections bill that lawmakers passed last month, plaintiffs in a long-running legal battle contend the measure could prevent early voting on college and university campuses.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker had been scheduled to hold a telephone hearing Wednesday in an early voting lawsuit that pits plaintiffs such as the League of Women Voters of Florida against the state. The hearing involved a request by the plaintiffs for a permanent injunction.
But he issued an order Tuesday calling off the hearing at the request of the plaintiffs.
Parking concerns a pretext?
In an emergency motion filed Monday, the plaintiffs argued that a parking requirement in the new elections bill (SB 7066) “is aimed with laser-like precision at undoing this court’s standing preliminary injunction order, and again imposing an elections regime in which supervisors of election are effectively prohibited from offering early voting on Florida’s college and university campuses.”
Walker in July 2018 issued a preliminary injunction that allowed campus early voting locations, ruling that a directive issued to elections supervisors by former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was unconstitutional.
In the November elections, that resulted in early voting on 11 campuses, with about 60,000 ballots cast, according to court records.
On governor’s desk
DeSantis formally received the elections bill from the Legislature on Friday and is expected to sign it before a June 29 deadline.
While the bill deals with a variety of elections issues, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit focused on a provision that said early-voting sites “must provide sufficient nonpermitted parking to accommodate the anticipated amount of voters.”
Many campuses require permits for parking, and some see frequent complaints about parking shortages.
The lawsuit is rooted in a 2014 directive to county elections supervisors by Scott’s administration that prevented early voting sites on campuses.