Religious buildings often double as polling stations in a community. In Boca Raton, Florida, along with schools and government buildings, 80 Christian churches, five synagogues and, controversially, a single mosque were assigned as polling stations. After a series of anti-Islamic backlash, however, the mosque was reportedly disinvited and the polling site was moved to a nearby library.
County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher initially invited the Islamic Center of Boca Raton to host voting booths for the Aug. 30 Florida primary and the Nov. 8 general elections, the Associated Press reports. However, she quickly rescinded that invitation after allegedly receiving more than 50 complaints, including some threats of violence, from community members who said they refuse to vote inside a mosque.
Many anti-Islamic websites as well as GossipExtra, one of South Florida's popular gossip websites, criticized Bucher's original decision to hold a polling place in a mosque.
Jose Lambiet, who runs GossipExtra, accused the original co-founder of the Islamic Center of having ties to the terrorist group Hamas and of being openly anti-Semitic. South Florida is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the U.S. None of these allegations have yet been confirmed.
"[Boca Raton] is an overwhelmingly Jewish neighborhood and forcing local Jews to vote at a mosque is not the smartest thing," Lambiet said, the AP reports. According to GossipExtra, dozens of voters called Bucher to complain.
However, Bucher's decision to move the polling site has caused yet another wave of backlash.
"If we are going to use places of worship as polling places, we should not discriminate," said Palm Beach, Florida, native and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch in a statement against religious prejudice, according to the AP.
"People of religion need to understand that we all have a common enemy -- those who do violent acts in the name of religion," said Omar Saleh, an attorney for Florida's Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) branch. "As much as I hate to say it, by removing the polling place you let the terrorists win. They want to instill fear and this is one way to do it."
Bucher has yet to release a statement or comment on any of the backlash against her.