Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Voters' rights and twisted logic

The absurd conclusion by Florida's top elections official that a student union building at a public university is not a government-owned community center only fuels cynicism about government and the Republicans' attempt to keep control of it by suppressing the vote of those who may have a different view. Gov. Rick Scott should order Secretary of State Ken Detzner to review his office's ruling and let early voting take place at the University of Florida's Reitz Union for a March 11 city election.

Florida's Division of Elections director Maria Matthews last month wrote an opinion to the city of Gainesville that UF's Reitz Union — despite functioning as the primary campus community center, a small convention center and having some hotel rooms — did not qualify under law as a government-owned community center or convention center. Therefore, she wrote, the union is not an allowable site for early voting under a 2013 law expanding location options.

Her rationale? She contended that since the Legislature had rejected proposed language that would have explicitly included educational facilities (such as elementary schools, among others) as optional early voting sites, the UF student union building couldn't qualify under any other definition of law as an early voting site.

This pinched reading of the law has stifled even other obvious options for early voting sites. The Gainesville Sun reported Matthews' memo has prompted the city attorney to also advise the mayor against taking advantage of another option under the revised 2013 law to hold early voting in a stadium. UF's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, i.e. The Swamp, she believes, would be viewed by the state as an education facility. Apparently the 90,000 or so football fans who gather there on fall Saturday afternoons are there to study.

This is what happens when government views ensuring voter access not as a democratic obligation but as a political strategy. Almost since the inception of early voting, which tends to attract more Democratic voters, Republicans in Tallahassee have been trying to rig the system to make it less accessible. Case in point: When Florida first implemented early voting in the wake of the 2000 presidential election debacle, early voting sites were limited to city halls or permanent public libraries. And state elections officials under a different Republican governor ruled that university libraries — while clearly permanent public libraries — weren't publicly accessible and couldn't be used.

Never mind, apparently, that all these facilities are accessible to tens of thousands of students, faculty and employees who visit each state university campus every day. This is less about making sure Gainesville follows state law in its March elections and more about making sure no undesirable precedent is set before voters cast ballots in the November election, which will happen to determine whether Scott and three Republican Cabinet members keep their jobs. Cynical, indeed.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18