Florida elections officials seek extended deadlines due to coronavirus

Supervisors want state to add more early voting days in August and again in November

File photo (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
File photo (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) (Associated Press)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s elections supervisors are asking the governor to extend early voting for both the August primary and the November general election.

They’re also seeking more leeway on mail-in ballots.

State law requires at least eight days of early voting, but it allows up to 15 days. Now, elections supervisors are asking Gov. Ron DeSantis for a total of 22 early voting days.

“It’s going to be harder to find poll workers and also election day voting locations,” said Tammy Jones, president of the Florida Association of Elections Supervisors. “So therefore, we asked that we can extend our early voting days.”

Elections supervisors also want more flexibility.

“Drop boxes at early voting sites. ... State law requires that," Leon County Elections Supervisor Mark Earley said. “So, we’re looking at putting more permanent sites out there that would be manned at more locations.”

The supervisors are also pushing voting by mail as the safest alternative to going to the polls. But they’re also aware that they don’t have the capacity to run the entire election by mail.

“We encourage people to vote by mail,” Jones said. “However, we do feel like Florida is not in a position to mandate all counties to vote by mail."

Added Earley: “We’re not going to be able to send a vote by mail ballot to everybody. There’s just not enough time to prepare for that. We don’t even have the tabulation machines in place. At least many counties don’t.”

Supervisors also want an extra day to respond to vote-by-mail requests. Existing law holds that ballots must be mailed within two business days.

The other factor to consider is cost. The supervisors anticipate that adding extra early voting days will add up, but they’re hoping that the state would be willing to pick up the tab.

Whatever changes the state agrees on, the supervisors want them to apply to both August and November, so voters feel some sense of continuity.