FLORIDA -- With early voting just days away, a judge’s recent ruling opens up college campuses across the state as potential early voting locations.

  • Recent ruling opens college campuses as early voting locations
  • Judge: excluding colleges "unconstitutional"
  • Includes Univ.of Central Florida, with more than 66,000 students
  • RELATED: Decision 2018 Voting Guide

"We were elated because this is a victory for democracy," said Patti Brigham, League of Women Voters of Florida's President. 

This year, the League, along with the Andrew Goodman Foundation and several University of Florida and Florida State University students, challenged a Florida statute which designated places -- from libraries to fairgrounds -- as potential early voting centers.

Not included in the list was colleges and universities.

The defendant in the case was Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who also serves as Florida's Chief Election Officer, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott.

"Many students live on campus and don't have a car, so that's why it's so important to have those sites," explained Brigham. "The Secretary of State said no you can't do that. And we said, of course we can do that."

Recently, a judge agreed: U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said that excluding colleges was "unconstitutional" and created a “secondary class of voters," alienating the nearly 830,000 students on college campuses in Florida.

That includes students at University of Central Florida, which boasts one of the largest student populations in the country, with more than 66,000 students.

"That's a large base of voters. But, also a young set of voters that everybody wants to make sure we get them engaged in the process," said Bill Cowles. "Then it goes into a political issue, because the perception is on college campuses, it tends to be more Democratic than Republican."

The Orange County Supervisor of Elections said that after the ruling, he and his colleagues across the state began figuring out how to adhere to the decision.

There isn't time to set up the centers for the August primary, he said. Locations have already been tested for connectivity; workers hired and sample ballots printed with the locations. 

After all, early voting in Orange County begins Aug. 17.

But, there is likely time ahead of the November general election.

"Again, it's a partnership between me and the University of Central Florida, so we are having dialogue," reminded Cowles.

It's something for which the League is pushing. Brigham, the organization's president since April, said that it's imperative that college students, the state's "future leaders," are not disenfranchised. It's a topic the League has been addressing since the time of women's suffrage.

"Since the massacre at Parkland, we've seen a number of students stepping forward and saying we're going to exercise our right to vote," said Brigham.

"We want to do everything we can to encourage young people to vote and and make it easier to have them vote, not make it harder. It's not about being a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent. This is about voting," she added.

Early voting in Orange County runs through Aug. 16, with primary election day on Aug. 28.

Early voting for the general election begins on Oct. 22 through Nov. 4 in Orange County.

Visit our Decision 2018 Voting Guide for more information.