Florida Elections Official Won’t Reinstate Mosque As Polling Site Amid Uproar

ASSOCIATED PRESS

After sparking an uproar by relocating a polling site from a local mosque over anonymous complaints from residents, a south Florida elections official met with mosque leaders to try to make amends—but she made no offer to reinstate it as a polling place.

Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher went to the Islamic Center of Boca Raton on July 15 to extend an olive branch to Muslim community members upset about her decision.

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, director of communications for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Florida chapter, told TPM that attendees at the meeting conveyed their desire to keep the center as a polling site. According to Ruiz, Bucher made no offer to revoke her announcement that the site had been relocated to a local library.

Bucher did not immediately respond Thursday to TPM’s request for comment, but said in a statement last week that some 50 residents had contacted her office to say they felt “uncomfortable” voting at the mosque.

The center’s president, Bassem Alhalabi, previously urged Bucher not to “surrender” to bigotry in an interview with TPM. CAIR and the Anti-Defamation League have echoed the call for Bucher treat all houses of worship equally, and a local rabbi told TPM that a coalition of community faith leaders will submit a written request Friday for her to reinstate the Islamic Center as a polling location.

Some 90 churches and five synagogues were chosen to serve as polling places in Palm Beach County, Florida’s largest, for the 2016 elections. Ruiz said he was unaware of any other mosques being designated as such in the entire state.

He said that CAIR planned to pursue legal action if Bucher did not reverse her decision and that other civil rights groups have asked to join their effort.

Although Ruiz declined to name the other groups ahead of the official announcement, he said they had “manifested an interest in exploring legal avenues with us.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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