Southwest Florida counties are facing a question that Florida election officials prepare for, but hope never comes — how to run an election after a hurricane disrupts standard plans.
Much still hangs in the air, depending on whether or not Gov. Ron DeSantis issues an executive order allowing flexibility for the affected counties. As of Friday morning, he has not. After Hurricane Michael in 2018, then-Gov. Rick Scott signed an order allowing some Panhandle counties to relax mail ballot requesting requirements and allowed local voting “supercenters,” locations where any voter can cast a ballot.
Here’s what voters in affected areas should be aware of if they plan to vote in the general election.
1. The voter registration deadline is unchanged.
The last day to register to vote is Oct. 11. That has not been adjusted because of Hurricane Ian as of Friday. In 2018 with Hurricane Michael, slight extensions were offered in affected counties. Floridians can register to vote at a Supervisor of Elections office and online at registertovoteflorida.gov.
2. Displaced voters seeking a mail ballot should contact their local elections office.
All of Southwest Florida’s counties have sent out their first batch of mail ballots to the addresses voters have on file, knowing that some of those homes may no longer exist. DeSantis has not issued any executive order that would allow a voter to make an address change request telephonically, but voters who expect that their mail ballot may be sent to an unreachable home should contact their local supervisor’s office to begin the process of requesting an address change.
3. You can request a mail ballot, not use it, and vote in person instead.
Voters who are unsure whether or not they’ll be back home by Election Day can request a mail ballot, with the last day to request being Oct. 29. If someone decides they want to, or are able to, vote at their polling location instead, they can bring the mail ballot to their polling location and have it canceled.
4. Your regular polling location may be gone.
Due to damage from the storm, certain polling locations are no longer functional. Local supervisors will likely be establishing new locations, or if granted the ability to do so by the governor, may open voting “supercenters.” Keep checking the local supervisor of election’s webpage and social media to find out where you’re slated to vote come November. Voters can also go to select locations for early voting, which any voter in a county can drop in at regardless of where in the county they live.
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Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage
FEMA: Floridians hurt by Ian can now apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how.
THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?
MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.