Leon County election officials say polls have been slow but not problematic

Posted at 6:42 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 19:33:49-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Thousands of voters in Leon County are still making their way to the polls to cast ballots for the presidential primary preference election, despite the fear of the coronavirus.

One poll worker says its been like a leaky faucet all day, saying that they've seen about half of the numbers that they usually see.

But Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley says that could be because of the rising number of early voters and vote by mail ballots. Voter turnout is also usually low when there is an incumbent on the ballot.

He says the coronavirus may be keeping people away from the polls, but they haven't seen any indications that the virus will cause a drop in voter turnout.

The virus caused a couple dozen poll workers to cancel, but Earley says that happened early enough to make sure each location had enough people.

Polling locations are equipped with hand sanitizer, gloves, and wipes to keep germs away.

Across the U.S., voters arrived at the polls to find them closed in the first primaries held since a national emergency was declared over the coronavirus. States scrambled to replace poll workers and relocate polling places away from elder-care facilities.

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee on Tuesday rejected all requests to provide flexibility in Primary Day voting, including refusing to extend the vote-by-mail ballot deadlines despite guidance from public health officials that people stay away from group gatherings to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

“Precinct-based voting is unlike the types of gatherings we have been advised to avoid in Florida,’’ said Lee. “We are in the presidential preference primary so we are not expecting large crowds or long lines.”

She added that the “normal protocol” will be followed and “voting in this election is safe for both voters and poll workers who follow that CDC guidance.”

In Palm Beach, the elections department said many workers failed to show up in at least five locations. The county had 800 volunteers back out as of Monday, with just 100 new volunteers offering to take their places.