Boca Raton’s two U.S. representatives Tuesday appeared to support the use of a mosque as a polling place in the Aug. 30 election.
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher last week switched the voting site for Precinct 4170 from the Islamic Center of Boca Raton to Boca Raton’s Spanish River Library, Bassem Alhalabi, the mosque’s president, told The Palm Beach Post on Monday.
He said Bucher told him she was moving the site because she had received about 50 complaints, some threatening, about the voting site being set at the mosque earlier this year.
On Tuesday, a Tampa-based group that campaigns against Islamic-American relations urged people to support Bucher’s decision, while Democratic U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, of West Palm Beach, and Ted Deutch, of Boca Raton, released statements opposing discrimination against any religion.
“The right to religious freedom and the right to vote are both fundamental to our democracy,” Frankel, in whose district the mosque lies, said late Tuesday in a statement. “All polling places should be safe, without discrimination against any religion.”
Deutch said, “If we are going to use places of worship as polling places, we should not discriminate. When Donald Trump advocates a religious ban on Muslims, there is a dangerous impact on communities throughout this country.”
Staff for the two politicians did not respond late Tuesday to requests that they elaborate on the statements.
Meanwhile, the Florida Family Association called on people to thank Bucher for pulling out of the deal to use the mosque.
“Click here to send your email to thank (Bucher),” said a release from the group, whose slogan is “defending American values.”
The group said it was responding to “pressure” being put on Bucher by the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR on Monday had raised the possibility of legal action if Bucher didn’t change her mind.
The Florida Family Association also suggested voter turnout would suffer if Bucher returned the polling place to the mosque. And it noted Alhalabi’s comments in a Palm Beach Post story Monday that Muslims regularly vote at polling places at churches and synagogues, which, according to an elections office database, account for about a fourth of all precincts in Palm Beach County.
“But there is a huge difference,” the Family Association’s statement said. “Christians and Jews are not advocating Sharia sanctioned cutting off of hands. Nor are Christians and Jews associated with jihadists.”
The group was referring to a May 23 panel discussion at Florida Atlantic University at which Alhalabi, an FAU engineering professor for about 20 years, said the controversial Sharia Law practice of cutting off a person’s hand as punishment for stealing was designed as a deterrent for crime.
Alhalabi told The Palm Beach Post Tuesday he was only explaining the law, not speaking for or against it.
“Even if I am guilty of something, what does that have to do with the center?” Alhahabi said.
Bucher, who like Frankel and Deutch is a Democrat and who is up for reelection to the non-partisan elections supervisor post in the Aug. 30 election, did not respond Monday or Tuesday to emails and phone calls from The Post.