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Broward College changes course and adds a Democratic Party voice to forum on voting by mail



Donald Trump et al. posing for the camera: Presidential candidate Donald Trump and former Broward Republican Chairman Richard DeNapoli, at a 2015 event at Trump National in Doral. DeNapoli is a panelist in a Broward College forum on the safety and security of mail voting in 2020. Organizers originally didn't plan to include a Democratic Party representative, but added one on Monday after news coverage about the event.


© Richard DeNapoli/courtesy/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS
Presidential candidate Donald Trump and former Broward Republican Chairman Richard DeNapoli, at a 2015 event at Trump National in Doral. DeNapoli is a panelist in a Broward College forum on the safety and security of mail voting in 2020. Organizers originally didn’t plan to include a Democratic Party representative, but added one on Monday after news coverage about the event.

After announcing a public forum to explain voting by mail that included a leading Republican supporter of President Donald Trump — but no Democratic Party representative — Broward College reversed course on Monday.

Last week, a college spokeswoman said the panel as constituted — with a professor, two county supervisors of elections and Republican Party leader — was adequate to delve into the controversial subject.

An article reporting the lack of a Democratic Party representative was published Saturday on SunSentinel.com and Monday in the South Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper.

On Monday afternoon, the original panelists were notified by email that a Democrat has been added to the online community event scheduled for Wednesday evening.

The new panelist is Cori Flam Meltzer, statewide co-lead counsel for the Florida Democratic Party’s voter protection team. Her Linked In profile said the party role involves coordinating “voter protection issues for Florida and in Broward County to ensure that all eligible citizens are able to vote and that those votes are counted.”

The subject of the Village Square civic forum — “Mail-in Voting: Is our election at stake? Will your vote be counted?” — is a highly controversial subject in 2020.

Mail voting has been used increasingly by Florida voters in the last two decades, especially among Republicans, and interest surged this year among people who don’t want to vote in person because of the coronavirus pandemic. The big increase in demand for mail ballots is coming from Democrats, who polls show are more concerned about COVID-19 than Republicans.

For months Trump has described mail voting as rife with fraud, though he hasn’t offered evidence to back up his claims, independent investigations haven’t found widespread fraud, and the presidential commission to examine alleged problems with voting disbanded without presenting any findings.

Responding to questions via email last week, Jodi Brown, district director of public relations for Broward College, said that because the Republican Party’s views on mail-in voting have changed, the Village Square advisory board “thought it was important to have the GOP represented in this civil debate as part of the ongoing discussion on mail-in voting. A representative from the Democratic Party was not included as the board felt the two supervisors of elections would already offer arguments in support of the system’s credibility and could talk about the process to bring a level of comfort to people about mail-in ballots.”

The Broward College discussion, part of the “Village Square” civic engagement effort, will be moderated by Kevin Wagner, chairman of the political science department at Florida Atlantic University.

The other panelists are supervisors of elections Peter

No Home, No Wi-Fi: Pandemic Adds to Strain on Poor College Students

Mr. Sawyer, who wants to become a pastor, is using his time off to work for civil rights organizations and to fund-raise so that he can re-enroll in the spring and obtain a doctorate in theology. “It’s definitely a delay, but sometimes stumbling blocks come,” he said.

Many students like Mr. Sawyer have been looking for alternative ways to pay for their education. As the coronavirus was closing campuses this past spring, Rise, a student-led organization that advocates college affordability, created an online network to help students find emergency financial aid, apply for public benefits and locate food pantries.

Rise has continued to serve more than 1,000 students a month who are struggling with issues like paying rent, losing their jobs and lacking internet access, said Max Lubin, the organization’s chief executive. “We’re overwhelmed by the need,” he said.

Stable housing and healthy food were already major concerns before the pandemic. A 2019 survey found that 17 percent of college students had experienced homelessness in the past year, and about half reported issues such as difficulty paying rent or utilities. Nearly 40 percent lacked reliable access to nutritious food.

The coronavirus crisis worsened many of these challenges, according to a June report by the Hope Center, which found that nearly three out of five students surveyed had trouble affording basic needs during the pandemic.

Financial aid in the United States had already been stretched thin by the rising costs of tuition, room and board. At their maximum, need-based federal Pell grants cover just 28 percent of the total cost of attending a public college today, compared with more than half of that cost in the 1980s. State aid, while recovering somewhat since the Great Recession, still falls short of need, and state budgets have been further drained by the health crisis.

The CARES Act, passed by Congress in March, provided about $14 billion for higher education, with about half earmarked for students. But there were limits on who could receive it, and college students were ineligible for the $1,200 stimulus check that went to taxpayers.

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