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Coastal voting officials eager to check polling sites for damage

Precinct 508 in St. Johns County is an Elks Lodge on State Road A1A near the Atlantic Ocean.
Precinct 508 in St. Johns County is an Elks Lodge on State Road A1A near the Atlantic Ocean.
Published Oct. 10, 2016

Election supervisors in coastal counties hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew are eager to check the condition of polling places closest to the Atlantic Ocean. But some areas are not yet accessible, St. Johns Supervisor of Elections Vicki Oakes said Monday in St. Augustine.

"Our office is fine," Oakes said. "But there are areas of our county that are terribly devastated."

The nation's oldest city, always prone to flooding, was among the places hardest hit by Matthew. Oakes said she's eager to check on two polling places on A1A closest to the ocean, an Elks lodge and a community center in the town of St. Augustine Beach. She said she hopes to inspect both sites by mid-week.

Changing a polling place a month before an election is unusual, and can happen for all kinds of reasons. The biggest challenge is that the elections office must notify every voter of the change. Another concern is whether any poll workers may be

"The good part about all this is that the election isn't for another month. It's not tomorrow," Oakes said. "I believe we have plenty of time to survey our polling places to figure out if we have to move any."

To accommodate last-minute voter registrations, Oakes is keeping her offices open until 7 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, the last day to register for the election. The Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Sunday in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee in an effort to force Gov. Rick Scott to extend the voter registration deadline for an extra week, until Oct. 18. But with the Columbus Day holiday, federal offices were closed Monday.

Most counties coping with the greatest storm damage are Republican-leaning: Nassau, Duval, St. Johns, Flagler and Brevard are all counties that reliably vote Republican. On that stretch of coastline, only Volusia has more Democratic voters than Republicans.