Election officials in Florida, hit hard by Hurricane Ian, are approaching the deadline to begin sending absentee ballots and developing contingency plans for the November general election.
In Lee County, Fla. — who lives in Fort Myers, which saw homes and businesses damaged and flooded by powerful storms this week — Elections Officer Tommy Doyle said the county’s election equipment and voting materials survived Ian, but its facilities were without power. they have
At least one person in his 45-member, full-time team lost his home.
The immediate priority, he told CNN on Friday, was to make sure the county met Thursday’s deadline under state law to send some 180,000 absentee ballots to Florida residents who have already applied. The Bonita Springs, Fla., vendor handling the work was about halfway through the project when the storm hit, Doyle said, but currently lacks power to finish the job.
If power isn’t restored by Sunday, Doyle said he plans to shift work to the state’s east coast in an effort to meet the deadline.
Leon County Elections Officer Mark Earley, who is president of Florida’s 67 state association of election officials, said counties affected by the hurricane are still “assessing the situation” but said their main offices and warehouses “have survived intact and very well.”
He said most hope to meet the Oct. 6 deadline to send out the early batch of mail-in ballots that voters have requested in advance.
Officials, however, will have to make contingency plans, especially in Lee County, for voting later this fall, likely after the destruction of polling places, he said.
Earley said those options include establishing unified voting centers and encouraging Floridians displaced by the storm to vote by mail. Florida’s deadline to apply for a mail-in vote is October 29.
In a statement to CNN, Florida Secretary of State Cord Boyd said state officials are “currently reviewing all contingencies and will be in constant contact with Election Officials to assess conditions in affected counties.”
Cecile Scoon, president of the Florida League of Women Voters, said her group wants to make sure the new in-person voting locations cater to underrepresented communities.