Democrats say pandemic will require election changes

Some supervisors of elections also want rules changed to accomodate voters

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Despite $20.2 million in federal funding coming to help Florida conduct the Aug. 18 primary and November general election amid the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats and some election supervisors are asking for other changes to accommodate voters during the pandemic.

Democrats are calling for a special session to address issues they anticipate the coronavirus will cause with voting this year.

“Ensuring safe access to this sacred right is a duty that we have as elected officials,” state Sen. Gary Farmer said.

“The problem is, is that our traditional system is not designed for social distancing,” state Sen. Perry Thurston.

Their main goal is to send every Floridian a mail-in ballot and have the state pay return postage. The federal assistance could help absorb some of those costs, but election supervisors insist that request is unrealistic.

“We do not have the volume capacity,” said Mark Earley, Leon County Supervisor of Elections and secretary of a state association of supervisors.

Election officials are anticipating poll worker shortages, a lack of polling places and a surge of vote-by-mail ballots in August and November. They’re asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend the window to send out mail ballots and expand early voting through Election Day

"To help us ensure that we've got a sufficient number of polling places and a sufficient number of poll workers,” said Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections President Craig Latimer.

Election supervisors first made the request in April and are still awaiting an answer from the DeSantis administration. The governor’s office has not responded to our multiple requests on the subject.

“We need to know these things way in advance. Months in advance. We typically start planning for an election a year ahead of time,” Earley said.

If you plan to vote by mail, request and return a ballot as soon as possible. You also don’t have to return it through the mail -- you can also drop it at your local supervisor of elections office in person to avoid paying postage.

Elections officials also want to remind Floridians that requesting a mail ballot doesn’t mean that’s the way you have to vote. You can still vote in person if you forget to return your mail ballot in time by Election Day.