In Ian’s aftermath, election officials try to make backup plans as midterm elections approach

Hurricane Ian could have another impact on Florida.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hurricane Ian could have another impact on Florida.

In 36 days, the midterm elections will take place and in two Southwest Florida counties hit hard by the hurricane, Lee and Charlotte counties, the elections may take on a different look.

On Monday, Duval and other county election office officials said they were ready to step in and make sure the elections there go off without a hitch. Duval officials said they are willing to send equipment if necessary.

Storms are something every Florida county is supposed to be prepared for and those in the elections office in Duval County were working during the storm last week just in case.

While Ian was threatening Northeast Florida and hitting hard in Southwest Florida, election workers in Jacksonville were on hand. They worked through the storm processing vote-by-mail ballots that had to be sent in the mail by last Friday. Supervisor of Election Mike Hogan said they got the job done but now their focus is also on Southwest Florida.

“Everybody’s jumping in and saying, you know, whatever you need, let us know, because they may have lost equipment and the facility may have been damaged. So we’re already planning on what we need to look at in our shop, what’s surplus we can send to somebody else,” Hogan said.

Hurricane Ian could have another impact on Florida.

Hogan said Northeast Florida was fortunate. Hogan’s crews worked during the storm last week to meet deadlines. When other county offices were closed they were sending out some of the 90,000 vote-by-mail ballots that have been requested.

So what would have happened if Ian hit Northeast Florida more directly?

“Every single supervisor has what’s called a COOP plan. The COOP plan is continuing your operations in case of a disaster. And we have to update that for every election,” Hogan said.

They have to look at where we could vote if precincts are destroyed and what would happen during a loss of power. So far that has not been put to the test in Duval County but it has happened in the past with other hurricanes such as Michael in 2018 where special election sites were set up for the entire county.

But for now, it’s full steam ahead in Jacksonville.

On Monday, workers were checking voting machines to make sure they are accurate. Every machine will be checked before the election and a second test will also be conducted later this month with the election canvassing board and public present to verify that the machines are working accurately.

Turnout is expected to be over 60%, officials said.

The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot is Oct. 29 and early voting begins Oct. 24.

The election will be held on Nov. 8.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.