Florida election officials wary of potential tropical system

Central Florida elections officials receive large amount of records requests

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Election officials in some Florida counties urged people to vote early Sunday where possible as potentially severe weather threatens the state on Election Day.

Voters who want to avoid weather-related disruptions should cast their ballots by 7 p.m. Sunday, the last day of early voting in the county, said Palm Beach County elections supervisor Wendy Sartory Link. In some counties early voting has already ended.

As of Sunday morning, more than 4.5 million votes had been cast through mail ballots and early voting, elections officials reported.

A developing weather system has a “high chance of developing into a subtropical or tropical depression” that could affect Florida’s east coast as well as the Bahamas and other parts of the southeastern U.S., the National Hurricane Center said Sunday morning.

Hurricane forecasters said it was too early to tell how strong the system might get but early indications had the track coming straight for South Florida and the northern Bahamas in the middle of the week.

Forecasters said people in those areas should be prepared for “coastal flooding, gale-force winds, heavy rainfall, rough surf and beach erosion.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement Sunday that the potential storm bears close watching, but he did not announce any election-related steps.

“I encourage all Floridians to be prepared and make a plan in the event a storm impacts Florida," said the Republican governor, who for weeks has been dealing with the aftermath of powerful Hurricane Ian.

If the weather system develops into a tropical storm or hurricane, it will be named Nicole.

The state Division of Elections did not immediately respond Sunday to an email asking whether additional preparations for a potential storm were planned.

The approach of the system comes as southwest Florida continues to recover from Hurricane Ian, which left 130 people dead in the state after coming ashore near Fort Myers on Sept. 28.

DeSantis issued an order extending early voting days in three hard-hit counties and authorizing election supervisors to designate additional early voting locations. Voters there can cast ballots at any polling place in their registered county through Election Day. Election supervisors are also permitted to relocate or consolidate polling places if necessary.

Last week, Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd said the state was ready for a fair and smoothly run election and that “voters can remain confident that their ballots will be counted accurately and on time.”