Florida islamic center is removed as a polling site after complaints and threats

For years, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, Fla., served as a polling station for Palm Beach County voters.Since at least the year 2010, citizens have cast their votes within the pastel green walls of the mosque, whether it was for a presidential primary, a municipal election or a special primary. Last week, however, the mosque was removed as a polling site. The decision was made by Susan Bucher, Supervisor of Elections for Palm Beach County, after she received complaints, and threats, about the use of the mosque in the upcoming Florida primary in August and general election in November. Bucher said her office had received “50 or so anonymous callers” who “felt uncomfortable voting at the Islamic center” in a statement to The Palm Beach Post. One caller indicated that “individuals planned to impede voting and maybe even call in a bomb threat” on election day, she said. After Bucher met with leaders from the Islamic center on Wednesday, the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it may issue a lawsuit.
“The supervisor of elections is evidently targeted by an organized lobbying campaign spreading fear and Islamophobia. Her discretion to designate or remove polling sites must never be based on religious, racial or ethnic bias,” Laila Abdelaziz, Florida legislative and government affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement. “This apparent unconstitutional religious bias may need to be corrected by our courts.”
The potential polling site at the mosque has been swapped for a library two miles away. It would have been the only Islamic place of worship selected as a voting site, joining over 80 churches and five synagogues in the area. Bassem Alhalabi, president of the mosque, told the Sun Sentinel the Islamic center is “a true community center.” It serves as a hurricane shelter, feeds the homeless and works with the juvenile justice department.“This is not democratic,” said Alhalabi, a professor of computer science and engineering at Florida Atlantic University. “If Muslims are good to vote in a church and a synagogue, then Christian and Jews are also good to vote in an Islamic center.”

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