Florida officials discuss voting options for Hurricane Ian impacted areas

Storm made landfall in southwest Florida Sept. 28
Posted at 5:46 PM, Oct 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-06 17:46:11-04

TAMPA, Fla. — For many, voting is an exciting chance to voice their political opinions.

But for many in southwest Florida, Election Day is taking a back seat to Hurricane Ian recovery.

In places like Hillsborough County, mail ballots are soon on their way to voters as Election Day looms.

But 120 miles south — Floridians have a different focus.

With so much loss and so much to do, Ian's destructive path will also likely hit turnout, political experts warn.

"Voting in some of those people's lives will not be of a top consequence," Dr. Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida Professor Emerita said.

MacManus says it'll be especially bad if accommodations aren't made to help the traditionally Republican area cast ballots.

"There's no one that takes joy from people not being able to vote because of a storm," MacManus said.

State and local officials say they're already working on ideas.

Florida's Secretary of State Cord Byrd spending this week meeting with election supervisors in impacted counties like Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota to come up with a plan.

"If there was any silver lining in this whole thing with Hurricane Ian — it's hit further out from the main election day than, say, Michael," Mark Earley, Florida Supervisors of Elections President said.

Earley says ballots and election equipment were largely unscathed, but Ian damaged precincts and displaced a whole bunch of people.

He says the state is considering special voting centers, like what the Panhandle had post-Michael.

They're essentially an extension of early voting where residents get the proper ballot regardless of where they live in a county.

"I do expect that will be part of the solution, without a doubt. Certainly in Lee County and possibly in some other counties," Earley said.

That would take an executive order from the governor.

He sounded on board, earlier this week — but said he wanted to keep Nov. 8 as normal as humanly possible departure he cautioned could create problems.

And speaking of problems — what about those who lost their ID's.

That's one we hear a lot.

Those who need a replacement can contact F-DOT to help with an expedited replacement.

Officials are set up at the Disaster Recovery Centers the state has created.