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 Antonacci of Broward and Wendy Sartory Link of Palm Beach County and Richard DeNapoli, former chairman of the Broward Republican Party and currently the county’s elected state Republican committeeman.
DeNapoli was an early supporter of Trump, at a time when most Florida party leaders favored other candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination.
The event starts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. It’s free. People may register online at www.broward.edu/villagesquare.
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