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

The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF), a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works to increase student voter participation and access to the ballot box, won a major voting rights victory with the settlement of a case brought to protect the voting rights of college students in the state of Florida. In July 2019, AGF, the League of Women Voters of Florida, and eight college students amended a suit they had previously brought against the then Florida Secretary of State challenging a ban on early voting on college and university campuses. The amended lawsuit challenged a new law that added a parking requirement, which appeared to be specifically designed to limit the ability to use college or university campuses as early-voting sites. AGF argued this new law violated the First, Fourteenth, and the Twenty-Sixth Amendments, similar to the on-campus early voting ban that the organization previously challenged.

Under the settlement agreement, the Secretary of State issued a directive making it clear that early voting may be offered on college and university campuses. Further, it states that sites such as student unions are permissible as early-voting locations and that the new parking provision does not prohibit early voting on campuses, even in the absence of non-permitted parking, provided there is sufficient non-permitted parking at other early-voting sites in the county. The settlement provides clear guidance to the supervisors of elections and protects early voting on-campus ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

“This settlement is not just a win for student voters in Florida but also a victory for democracy. Engaged and active voters are the linchpin of a healthy democracy and our research demonstrates that students are more enthusiastic than ever about voting. Lawmakers should be doing everything in their power to support and encourage their participation. Unfortunately, legislatures in Florida and states across the nation are enacting barriers to student voting,” explained Alexandria Harris, Executive Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation. “I spent my college career fighting to have equal access to the ballot box for myself and my peers, so I recognize the courage it took for these students to make their voices heard. I want to thank our co-plaintiffs: the League of Women Voters of Florida, the students, and in particular, Megan Newsome, a former AGF Vote Everywhere Ambassador and University of Florida alumna who brought the issue to our attention and penned an op-ed raising awareness. Through persistence and commitment, these students overcame the odds and now more Florida students will have greater access to voting.”

“Six years after a University of Florida student requested to vote early on campus and sparked this battle, the statewide ban against on-campus early-voting sites is officially an unconstitutional piece of Florida’s past,” remarked Megan Newsome, former AGF Vote Everywhere Ambassador and Puffin Democracy Fellow. “Six years, to the youth who started this campaign, has meant picking up where others have left off and passing the baton when graduations approached. It is definitely not easy to manage a challenge that consumes your entire undergraduate career. And yet, we did it. Florida aimed to discriminate on the basis of age, but with the Twenty-Sixth Amendment on our side, students fought back and won to secure our right to the ballot. Inspired by the drive and commitment of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, Florida’s youth has made their voices loud and clear in the courts. Now, their voices will be made loud and clear at the ballot box.”

Today’s settlement win marks the near conclusion of an ongoing legal battle against the state of Florida. In 2014, then-Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued an administrative rule that prohibited college and university campuses from serving as early-voting polling sites under the guise of parking accessibility. In response, the League of Women Voters of Florida filed a lawsuit challenging the rule. AGF joined the lawsuit in 2018 and subsequently filed a successful motion for a preliminary injunction to block the implementation of the rule. In his decision granting the injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker found the directive to be intentionally discriminatory against young people’s ability to vote indicating that the Secretary of State’s justification for the parking accessibility law “reek[s] of pretext.” The injunction resulted in the establishment of 12 early-voting polling sites at 10 Florida colleges and universities in time for the 2018 midterm election. Moreover, these locations served nearly 60,000 voters in 2018, a record number.

“The settlement win that we’ve achieved in Florida sends a clarion call nationally that with organizing, advocacy, and litigation, it is possible to fulfill the promise of the largely abandoned Twenty-Sixth Amendment to protect youth voting rights. With youth voter participation having skyrocketed nationally in 2018, it is incumbent on us to remember the reason why the nation came together in unison, across partisan lines, to ratify this Amendment in record time—young people play a critical role in maintaining our democracy,” said Yael Bromberg, Esq., Chief Counsel for Voting Rights at The Andrew Goodman Foundation.

The lawsuit was funded by the Priorities USA Foundation and filed by Perkins Coie LLP with support from Bromberg Law LLC.

Click here to read the directive.

About The Andrew Goodman Foundation 

The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s mission is to make young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy by training the next generation of leaders, engaging young voters, and challenging restrictive voter suppression laws. The Foundation’s Vote Everywhere program partners with America’s colleges and universities to provide resources, visibility, and mentoring to a national network of student leaders who involve their peers in participatory democracy through long-term voter engagement, public policy, and social justice initiatives. The organization is named after Andrew Goodman, a 20-year old Freedom Summer volunteer, and champion of equality and voting rights who was murdered by the KKK in 1964 while registering African Americans to vote in Mississippi.