Voters in Palm Beach County have been assigned to polling stations in about 80 Christian churches and five synagogues or Jewish centers this year, along with schools, government buildings and other locations. Until last week, a single mosque was part of this mix.
County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher had invited the Islamic Center of Boca Raton to host a polling site for the Aug. 30 Florida primary and Nov. 8 general elections. Then she disinvited the mosque after an anti-Islamic backlash.
She told the center's president that she received about 50 complaints, including threats of violence, from people who don't want to vote in a mosque, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Florida.
But moving the polling station to a nearby library hasn't saved Bucher from criticism.
U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, both Palm Beach Democrats, issued statements Tuesday night opposing religious discrimination. "If we are going to use places of worship as polling places, we should not discriminate," Deutch said.
"People of religion need to understand that we all have a common enemy — those who do violent acts in the name of religion," said Omar Saleh, a CAIR-Florida attorney. "As much as I hate to say it, by removing the polling place you let the terrorists win. They want to instill fear, and this is one way to do it."
The Islamic Center actively participates in interfaith efforts in its community, and should be allowed to host voting, like almost 100 other houses of worship in the county and several mosques across the nation, Saleh said.
By caving in to threats, Saleh said Bucher is giving unwarranted support to those who say Muslims are not legitimate Americans because of violent extremists such as the gunman who killed 49 at an Orlando nightclub last month.
Bucher, a Democrat now running for a third four-year term as elections supervisor, did not respond to several calls and emails from the Associated Press seeking comment.