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New lawsuit follows federal judge's ruling to allow elections center move

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Updated: 10/04/2013 12:17 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A federal judge Thursday struck down a request to keep a Duval County elections office at the Gateway shopping center.

Owners of Gateway Retail Center filed a lawsuit urging a federal judge to block the elections office from moving to One Imeson.

The argument claimed moving out will hamper the ability for African-Americans to vote.

"We're totally committed to keeping early voting in the Gateway community," said Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland. "We've said that since day 1. We know of two government-owned facilities, one within sight of Gateway, but we're still trying to work with the landlord to try and rent a space there at Gateway."

The federal judge didn't buy that argument, either. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Corrigan stated in his ruling issued Thursday morning that "it is premature to decide whether the termination of the Gateway Lease will have any effect on the voting rights of African-Americans."

But the fight over Gateway is far from over. Action News obtained a new lawsuit recently filed on behalf of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a dozen local African-Americans who use Gateway to vote.

It states, "The individual Plaintiffs have their rights burdened and infringed by the change in the early voting location away from the Gateway Shopping Center."

Holland feared legal action against the City of Jacksonville would delay his office's move into Imeson. But after Thursday's ruling, he's moving forward.

"The taxpayers were going to continue paying $51,000 a month. The order today was the best thing for the taxpayers," said Holland.

Office staff will begin moving equipment out of Gateway and into the new location next week. Imeson is offering free rent for the first three months.

The city of Jacksonville has 60 days to respond to the new lawsuit. Holland predicted it will be combined with the existing lawsuit filed by the owners of Gateway.
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