Voting rights groups seek ’emergency actions’ to ensure voting access in Ian zone

By: - October 12, 2022 10:24 am

Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens

Noting that the destruction from Hurricane Ian has disrupted the normal election administration in several southwest counties, a coalition of voting and civil rights groups have asked Florida election officials take “emergency actions to ensure access for all Floridians.”

Election Day is just 27 days away, and the deadline to register for the Nov. 8 election expired on Tuesday. Extending that deadline for another week is among the actions recommended by the groups, which include the the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, All Voting is Local Florida, Common Cause Florida, Equal Ground, ACLU of Florida, Campaign Legal Center, Demos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Such changes would require an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Here are some of the other changes that the voting rights groups are calling for:

  • Extending state-mandated early voting in the counties affected by the storm from Oct. 29 through Nov. 5 to Oct. 24 through Nov. 7, or allow individual supervisors of elections in those counties to conduct early voting every day beginning Oct. 24 through Nov. 7.
  • Extend the mandatory early voting hours in affected counties from 8 hours to 12 hours per day through the early voting period.
  • Allow supervisors of elections in affected counties to designate additional early voting sites.
  • Allow supervisors of elections in affected counties to accept written (including email) or telephone request for a vote-by-mail ballot to be mailed to an address other than the voter’s address on file.
  • Allow supervisors of elections to move or consolidate polling locations.
  • Allow voters in affected counties to cast their ballots at any polling location within the county.

The changes would apply in any county subject to FEMA disaster declaration from the storm. As of Oct. 10, FEMA lists 19 different counties throughout the state.

There is recent precedent in Florida for making such voting changes this soon after a natural disaster.

Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle area of North Florida on Oct. 10, 2018, less than a month before the midterm elections. Then-Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order on Oct. 18 that allowed election supervisors in eight-hurricane hit counties to extend early voting days and designate more early voting sites, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.