Editorial: Bucher too quick to abandon mosque polling place


Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher has an understandable explanation for a difficult decision: shifting a polling place from the Islamic Center of Boca Raton to a city library.

“We began receiving complaints from voters,” she said Wednesday in an email to The Post Editorial Board. “Some felt uncomfortable voting at the Islamic Center. When we received a call that indicated individuals planned to impede voting and maybe even call in a bomb threat to have the location evacuated on Election Day (no name was given during the call), we located the Spanish River Library which is two miles away from the center as an alternative voting location and I called the Center’s President.”

In charge of providing 445 voting locations on Election Day, Bucher has the responsibility of seeing that the balloting is fair and secure and that the citizenry is safe. It’s hard to fault her caution in moving the polling place for Precinct 4170, even though it has opened her up to charges of discrimination from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and to criticism from Boca’s two U.S. representatives, Democrats Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch.

But those reported 50 or so anonymous callers who threatened to disrupt Election Day because they don’t like the notion of voting in a mosque — their behavior is reprehensible, cowardly and an insult to the American values they mistakenly think they are serving.

They placed the elections supervisor in the uncomfortable position of having to bend to fears and ugly hysteria.

Again, we understand. But the polling place should have stayed put. We cannot abide de facto discrimination, especially by a government agency.

What these “anonymous” thugs perpetrated was arguably criminal. We would hope that their actions were reported to the Boca Raton Police Department or the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for investigation. And, if need be, prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office.

Voting is one of our democracy’s most sacred rights. Anyone who dares infringe upon that right should have the full weight of the law brought against them.

We shouldn’t have to cower before threats from faceless bigots.

Bucher was right in her initial thinking to use the mosque as a polling place. The center’s president, Bessem Alhalabi, said she approached him, saying “Well, you guys have a nice building.”

The polling booths would have been in a reception hallway, not the prayer area. But that was of no consequence to critics of the mosque, such as the Tampa-based Florida Family Association, which believes that its slogan “defending American values” requires it to slam Muslims.

“Christians and Jews are not advocating Sharia-sanctioned cutting off of hands,” said the group as it urged people to thank Bucher for making the switch. “Nor are Christians and Jews associated with jihadists.”

There is no evidence the Boca Islamic center is connected with any of those things. We understand why such fears exist. But suicide bombings and civilian killings are the handiwork of a relative monomaniacal few. They’re hardly characteristic of the mass of 1.6 billion people who profess this faith, let alone of the 3.3 million Muslims in America.

Our concern is that giving into these Islamophobic threats will prevent elections officials from ever again scheduling a mosque as a polling location — even though Palm Beach County voters have long placed their ballots at many other houses of worship.

If that happens, the government would essentially be relegating Islam to a second-class religion. That’s contrary to the First Amendment, which makes clear, as the U.S. Supreme Court said in 1947, that the government may not “prefer one religion to another.”

Though she was well-intentioned, we wish Bucher had not given in to the fearmongering.



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