Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy Furious Over Democrats' Political Antics at UF
Around the State
The student union building at the University of Florida doesn't pass as an early voting site -- a Florida Division of Elections ruling Democrats have seized upon to accuse Gov. Rick Scott of “voter suppression.”
But Republicans have begun to fight back, with Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy leading the charge. Braddy isn't taking political gamesmanship in his town lying down, especially when he thinks Democrats are courting UF students with deception, not facts.
The decision caused controversy when Democrats across the Sunshine State accused Scott of trying to stop young people from voting -- and pointed to political reasons for the apparent “suppression.”
“Rick Scott doesn’t think he can win re-election on the merits, so he is trying to suppress the votes of honest Floridians,” said the Florida Democratic Party in a statement released last week.
The legal decision quickly caught traction with other politicians when Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and former Gov. Charlie Crist both took the opportunity to pounce on Scott over the state’s decision.
“This is befitting of a Third World country,” Nelson said about the state’s decision.
Last week, it was lights, camera, action when Crist attended a rally at UF to discuss the controversy. Crist killed two birds with one stone during the visit -- not only did he get to talk to students at the university, but he also walked out of UF with a new campaign video dogging Gov. Scott.
"I don't understand really what's happening here with Rick Scott's administration and why they're not letting you vote on campus," said Crist. "It seems to me that in a democracy, people ought to have the right to vote."
Crist called the decision an “outrage” on Twitter and called on his followers to protest Rick Scott's “awful insult to every student and voter in the state.”
That's when Mayor Braddy jumped in.
"For Sen. Nelson to liken Gainesville to a Third World outpost is beneath the dignity of a United States senator and more in line with a partisan operative,” said Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy Jr. “The fact is, when Charlie Crist was governor, Florida cities had more restrictive conditions on early voting. The law was broadened in 2013 after Crist left office. It has gotten easier, not harder.”
Early voting has been the center of controversy after many people waited for hours to vote in 2012. Some voters even left voting sites because they didn’t want to wait in line for too long to cast their ballot.
To alleviate issues with early voting, legislators expanded early voting sites last year to include courthouses, civic centers, stadiums, convention centers, fairgrounds and government-owned senior and community centers.
But when it came to college campuses, they weren’t so convinced they should be part of the definition. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, told the Tampa Bay Times that legislators did not specifically allow for early voting sites to be on college campuses.
That legislative decision was also called by some a political move orchestrated by Scott to help with his re-election campaign.
The governor’s office scoffed at the notion because it wasn’t their office that issued the ruling on the voting site -- it was the Division of Elections, a department entirely separate from the governor’s office.
“Voting locations are determined by the law, not politics,” said Frank Collins, Scott’s communications director. “A political party cannot arbitrarily advocate for an early voting location that is outside the letter of the law.”
Gainesville currently already has two early voting sites -- one is 1.5 miles away from the UF campus and the other is 3 miles away.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.