The Florida Supervisors of Elections — an organization representing all 67 county election supervisors across the state — is seeking greater flexibility regarding how elections are conducted during the remainder of the 2020 election cycle.
The organization has asked that Gov. Ron DeSantis issue an executive order granting more flexibility, in light of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The request asks that the executive order modify current Florida Elections Code to allow for more flexibility in meeting the challenges of staffing the polls, securing polling locations, and providing additional voting methods, according to Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley.
The goal is to lessen the impact to in-person voting due to worker shortages and fewer polling locations, Corley said.
To that end, supervisors of elections across the state are asking that they be allowed to designate additional early voting sites, extend the early voting period to 22 days prior to and up until 7 p.m. on election day, and the flexibility of consolidating polling places and/or relocating them to early voting sites.
Now, early voting across the state ranges between eight and 14 days, Corley said.
The additional flexibility being requested is important, Corley said.
“Going into the Presidential Preference Primary, back on March 17, we had some immense challenges,” he said. “We had several hundred poll workers that respectfully bowed out, because of concerns about their health.”
“Our poll workers are generally senior citizens. They’re concerned for their health and their safety. Couldn’t blame them at all,” he said.
When that happened, Corley said he reached out to Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles, Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco for help.
“Due to schools being closed, we got a tremendous response from teachers and school-related personnel, and others,” Corley said.
Additionally, at the last minute, he said, “we lost polling places.”
So, polling sites had to be consolidated.
“We limped through the PPP (Presidential Preference Primary).
“We’re looking ahead toward the fall, and if we have a similar situation, or fear of a similar situation, we’re going to have a serious issue with adequate poll workers,” Corley said.
“We’re being proactive as the state association of supervisors of elections, basically saying to the governor — ‘We need some flexibility.’”
“I’ve had people say, ‘Why don’t we just do all mail ballots?’
“I’m not opposed to that. I think that would be a great solution, however you can’t flip a switch and make that happen. It takes about a year,” Corley said.
Flexibility is needed because Florida is diverse.
“What Miami-Dade needs is not the same as what Pasco needs. What Pasco needs is not the same as what Clay County needs,” he said.
“Vote by mail right now is about a third of the vote,” he said, but predicts it will increase to about 60%.
“The reason we’re asking for Early Voting is because they are larger facilities. We can control some of the safety, as far as the protocols for social distancing.
“Having larger facilities would incorporate our model to get voters in and out, expeditiously and safely,” he said.
“You could see a model where you don’t have your traditional election day polling places,” he said.
Rather, there could be 15 to 20 early voting sites that are larger facilities that would take the place of election day, neighborhood polling places.
“The problem is, you can’t just decide mid-October to do X,Y and Z. You have to plan for it now,” Corley said.
“Quite frankly, all options are on the table.
“We know this, we have to have an election. It’s in the constitution. You can’t just defer the presidential election in November. It’s going to happen, and we’re going to make it work. We just have to be a little innovative on how we do it,” Corley said.
If you would like to vote by mail, go online to PascoVotes.gov, call (800) 851-8754 or send a handwritten request to Brian E. Corley, P.O. Box 300, Dade City, Florida, 33526-0300. Handwritten requests must include your signature and date of birth.
Florida voters have had the option for no-excuse voting by mail and utilization has increased exponentially since its inception.
Requests for vote-by-mail are accepted daily and can be made for up to two election cycles. Ballots are mailed approximately 40 days prior to any election, and per Florida Law, are due back in the Supervisor of Elections’ Office by 7 p.m. Election Day.
Published April 29, 2020