For years, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, Fla., served as a polling station for Palm Beach County voters. Since at least the year 2010, citizens have cast their votes within the pastel green walls of the mosque, whether it was for a presidential primary, a municipal election or a special primary. Last week, however, the mosque was removed as a polling site. The decision was made by Susan Bucher, Supervisor of Elections for Palm Beach County, after she received complaints, and threats, about the use of the mosque in the upcoming Florida primary in August and general election in November. Bucher, a Democrat, is running for re-election for the nonpartisan supervisor post. “We began receiving complaints from voters,” said Bucher in an email to The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board. “Some felt uncomfortable voting at the Islamic Center.” She had 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,” Bucher said, and she decided to relocate the polling place to the Spanish River Library about two miles away.
Bassem Alhalabi, the president of the Islamic Center, said he was saddened to learn the news. “We were very happy to serve the community,” he told WPTV. The Islamic Center, Alhalabi said, is “a true community center” that serves as a hurricane shelter, feeds the homeless and works with the juvenile justice department.
Alhalabi, a professor of computer science and engineering at Florida Atlantic University, said he was especially shocked by Bucher’s decision because he himself votes at a church. “This is not democratic,” he told the the Sun Sentinel. “If Muslims are good to vote in a church and a synagogue, then Christian and Jews are also good to vote in an Islamic center.”