Calls going for pandemic election changes

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
May 18, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- $20.2 million in federal funding will be coming to the state to help conduct the August 18 primary and November General Election amid the pandemic, but Florida Democrats and election supervisors are asking for more.

Florida Democrats are calling for a special session to address issues they anticipate the coronavirus will cause in this year’s elections.

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

Their main goal is to send every Floridian a mail ballot and have the state pay return postage.

“The problem is, is that our traditional system is not designed for social distancing,” said State Senator Perry Thurston.

The federal assistance could help absorb some of those costs, but election supervisors insist Democrats’ demands are unrealistic.

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

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 the governor 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 back in April, but they still have not gotten an answer from the governor.

We’ve also reached out the governor multiple times with no response.

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

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 you mail ballot in time.