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Lack of campus early voting sites stuns League of Women Voters

But Tampa, Orlando and Gainesville all announce plans to let students vote on campus in November.

It has been a month since a federal judge bluntly declared a "stark pattern of discrimination" by the state of Florida for refusing to allow college students to vote early on campus.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker's ruling was a big victory for the League of Women Voters of Florida, which had sued Gov. Rick Scott's administration and successfully challenged the ban on campus early voting.

Hillsborough says it will have an early voting site on the USF campus for the November election, and Orange County will have one at UCF — the state's largest university. Alachua County, where the lawsuit began in Gainesville, announced earlier that the Reitz Student Union at the University of Florida will serve as an early voting site.

But the League says it is fighting reluctant county election supervisors who in some cases have decided not to add a campus early voting site in 2018.

The group cited Tallahassee's Leon County, home of Florida State and Florida A&M, and Miami-Dade, home to FIU and Miami-Dade College, which has more than 160,000 students.

"It's incredible that they wouldn't make it happen," League President Patti Brigham said. "It sends a terrible message to our young people."

Miami-Dade issued a statement that it "has already confirmed its early voting sites for this election cycle." There will be 25 in all.

Florida State offered the Donald L. Tucker Center, a basketball arena just off campus that has been the site of many concerts, graduations and athletic events. But Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley said the location was not ideal and that getting it ready was a "Herculean task."

"I don't think a whole lot of students walk to the civic center," Earley said. Referring to criticism from the League, he said: "I think some of their comments are unfortunate."

When Earley rejected the site, FSU President John Thrasher expressed his disappointment in a letter.

College-age voters identify most closely with the Democratic Party, and in recent elections they have voted in smaller numbers than older voters. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland in February has intensified a focus on getting more young people registered to vote.

Hillsborough elections chief Craig Latimer says USF will hold early voting at the Yuengling Center (the arena formerly known as the SunDome). Latimer noted that there are as many students at USF as there are voters in the two neighboring cities of Temple Terrace and Plant City.

"It makes so much more sense," Latimer said.

The Yuengling Center will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, from Oct. 22 through Nov. 4. It will be one of 20 early voting centers in Hillsborough for the general election.

Orange County Supervisor Bill Cowles said a search is ongoing in Orlando for an early voting site at UCF for November.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, has been pushing the idea for some time.

Here's part of a letter Smith sent, urging an early voting site on campus.

"This needs to be accessible to the tens of thousands of students who spend most of their day on campus, biking or walking," Smith said.