Lawsuit

Florida

Status
Closed
Updated
August 2020
Voter's Rights

At a Glance

As a direct result of a federal lawsuit filed in the spring of 2018 by the League of Women Voters of Florida, The Andrew Goodman Foundation, and several student plaintiffs including Andrew Goodman Ambassadors at the University of Florida, Megan Newsome and Jaime Roy, registered voters gained the opportunity to cast early in-person ballots on any college or university campus. The lawsuit established Twenty-Sixth Amendment precedent in the modern era by finding that Florida’s ban on establishing polling sites on college and university campuses during the early voting period was a violation of youth voting rights.

The Latest

Voter's Rights

The Andrew Goodman Foundation Wins Major Student Voting Rights Victory in Florida Ahead of the 2020 Election

April 3, 2020

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee issued a directive today that clears the way for college and university campuses to serve as early voting sites. This is as a result of a settlement of a case brought to protect the voting rights of college students in the state of Florida.

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About the Case

In Florida in 2017, no college or university student could vote early on their campus. Florida Secretary of State Kenneth Detzner’s interpretation of the state’s early-voting law prohibited public buildings, such as libraries or community centers, on college and university campuses from serving as early-polling sites, even if they otherwise qualified. With 3,874,929 Florida residents using early-polling sites in the 2016 General Election, surpassing the number of Election Day voters and absentee voters, and making up just over 40 percent of the voting population, Floridians have shown a clear preference for early voting.

In response to the Secretary Detzner’s interpretation of the law, Megan Newsome, then the University of Florida (UF) Andrew Goodman Team Leader, published an opinion piece in 2017 in The Gainesville Sun that argued college and university students should be able to vote early on campus. By June, Newsome’s article had catalyzed legal action—with Newsome, Andrew Goodman Ambassador Jaime Roy, the League of Women Voters of Florida, and The Andrew Goodman Foundation as plaintiffs—against Detzner in his official capacity as Florida Secretary of State.

On August 17, 2018, the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections announced the J. Wayne Reitz Union at UF would serve as an early voting site for the 2018 General Election, making voting more accessible for over 50,000 students. After this initial victory,  AGF quickly turned our attention to Miami Dade College (MDC), where Andrew Goodman Ambassadors were present on the Kendall, North, and Wolfson campuses. At the same time, AGF worked with national partners through the Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV) Coalition to bring early voting sites to campuses across Florida.

By mid-September, there was victory in Miami-Dade County: an early voting site had been added at Florida International University. But with a student population of over 160,000, MDC was starkly missing from the growing list of institutions with on-campus early voting sites. Despite great uncertainty, AGF encouraged Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere alumna, Maydee Martinez, to publish an op-ed in the Miami Herald, highlighting Miami-Dade’s absence from the list of counties with early voting sites on flagship college or university campuses.

In the end, MDC students played a pivotal role in securing not one, but two, early voting sites. Undeterred, Rebecca Diaz and Fiorenza Herrera Diaz, Andrew Goodman Ambassador’s at MDC’s Wolfson Campus, decided to create and disseminate a petition on Change.org, which collected over 200 signatures in under two days. The next day, Fiorenza and Rebecca—with the support of Nazario Saint Louis, another Andrew Goodman Ambassador at MDC, Campus Election Engagement Project, and other students and local organizations—attended a budget hearing to demand that Mayor Giménez reevaluate MDC’s need for accessible early voting sites. Rebecca delivered a compelling and passionate speech to the County Commission, which ultimately moved them to take action, granting an unexpected two early voting sites to MDC.

In July 2019, AGF released a report on the impact of these on-campus early voting sites. The report, On-Campus Early In-Person Voting in Florida in the 2018 General Election, demonstrates that providing polling places on college and university campuses increases youth voter turnout, which historically lags behind other age groups. The report was authored by Daniel A. Smith, Ph.D., Professor, and Chair of the Department of Political Science at UF and President of ElectionSmith, Inc., with research and technical assistance provided by Enrijeta Shino, Ph.D., Andrew Goodman Ambassador Jenna Tingum, and Andrew Goodman Puffin Democracy Fellow Megan Newsome.

The key findings were as follows:

  • Overall turnout in Florida, especially of young registrants, increased in 2018 due to the added convenience of on-campus early voting.
  • Nearly 60,000 registered voters in 9 Florida counties cast early in-person ballots at 12 on-campus voting locations in the 2018 General Election.
  • 56% of the total on-campus early in-person ballots were cast by voters aged 18-29 years old.
  • Hispanic and Black voters disproportionately cast ballots at the 12 on-campus early voting locations.
  • Young voters, as well as people of color, and those who did not cast a ballot in 2016, disproportionately voted at the on-campus polling locations at public and private universities and colleges.