Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Early Voting Site Will Stay at Gateway; Tentative Agreement Defuses Controversy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Early Voting Site Will Stay at Gateway; Tentative Agreement Defuses Controversy

Article excerpt

Byline: Nate Monroe

An early voting site will remain at the Gateway Shopping Center, Jacksonville officials announced Tuesday, defusing a months-long controversy that had ensnared the city in two federal lawsuits alleging voting-rights violations.

Under a tentative agreement that city officials hailed as a compromise, Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland will designate a 2,400-square-foot space in the Tax Collector's Gateway branch as an early-voting site. Additionally, Tax Collector Michael Corrigan has agreed to extend his office's lease with Gateway Retail LLC - which was set to expire in September 2015 - until 2021 at a flat rental rate of $8,341 per month.

The deal follows a controversial City Council vote in August to move an elections center from Gateway to another facility farther north on Imeson Park Boulevard, which remains on track.

Although the elections center was used most of the year as an equipment warehouse, it was also an early-voting center for the largely black neighborhood off Interstate 95 and near Norwood Avenue. Holland had said the Imeson building was better suited to house the elections equipment and was a good financial deal for the city, though Terranova Corp., Gateway's owner, had offered a steep discount to the $51,000 per month rent it was charging.

The council's decision prompted lawsuits from Gateway - which argued the council improperly approved the new 10-year lease at One Imeson, a former Sears catalog center - and a dozen black voters who were joined by the state Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

But the agreement announced Tuesday appears to have resolved the dispute.

"I can take this back to Washington. This is what compromise looks like," said U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, who strongly opposed the council's decision to move the center. …

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