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More polling sites moved over coronavirus fears, five days before Florida primary

Florida’s presidential preference primary is Tuesday; experts warn that polling changes could cause confusion.

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The outbreak of the coronavirus is forcing Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to move additional polling places for Tuesday’s presidential preference primary election.

Officials said they could no longer be polling sites due to concerns about the coronavirus.

The latest changes are:

  • Pinellas County’s precinct 125 will no longer be at the Peterborough Apartments. Instead, voters for that precinct should go to the elections office in the county building, 501 1st. Ave. N. (Fifth Street North entrance), St. Petersburg.
  • Pinellas County’s precinct 541 will no longer be at the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church. Instead, voters should go to the Centre of Palm Harbor polling site at 1500 16th St., Palm Harbor.
  • Hillsborough County’s precinct 423 will no longer be at Rocky Creek Retirement Village. Voter should instead go to the Tampa Korean Seventh Day Adventist, 7215 Sheldon Road, Tampa.
  • Hillsborough County’s precinct 163 will not be at Vista 400, but instead at Beulah Baptist Institutional Church, 1006 W. Cypress St., Tampa.
  • Hillsborough County’s precinct 433 will not be at Aston Gardens but instead is moved to the Philippine Cultural Foundation, 14301 Nine Eagles Drive, Tampa.

The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office already announced a different polling place move on Wednesday, and the Pinellas elections office had previously announced new locations for precincts that had originally been located in eight assisted-living facilities.

Related: This is how coronavirus is making Florida's Tuesday primary more difficult.

Both counties have information on their websites detailing the emergency polling place changes and providing details about their responses to the coronavirus.

Experts say good communication is key to make sure voters can easily find their polling place on Election Day.

Last-minute polling place changes caused confusion in some areas during this past Tuesday’s primary elections in a number of other states, according to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“In light of the tremendous uncertainties arising from the COVID-19 crisis, we urge that states do everything within their powers to make sure that all eligible voters can vote,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of that organization, said in a news release.

The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections is preparing 796 mail ballot kits for residents in the eight assisted-living facilities that are no longer precincts, said spokesman Dustin Chase. Chase said the ballots will go to residents who have not already voted to “ensure that voters’ constitutional right to cast a ballot is secured.” He noted that some of those residents may not be able to leave the facility to go vote on Election Day so the last-minute precinct move could affect them.

Chase said the elections office will drop off secure ballot boxes at each of the facilities on Friday, where staff at the assisted-living facilities will keep watch over them. Elections office staff will pick up the ballot boxes Monday evening and will replace them with more ballot boxes, Chase said. He said facilities staff will be expected to bring the ballot boxes to the elections office before 7 p.m. on Election Day.

“This is an emergency situation,” Chase said, noting that such facilities are limiting visitors due to the coronavirus. “Since we are not allowed in the facility, the chain of custody is being transferred from us to the facility.”

Related: Tampa Bay nursing homes are limiting visitors. What does that mean for one family?

Here is the list of changes to polling places in Pinellas County as of Thursday afternoon:

  • Precinct 201: Now at Pinellas Community Church, 5501 31st St. S., St. Petersburg
  • Precinct 342: Now at Christ Presbyterian Church, 3115 Dryer Ave., Largo
  • Precinct 529: Now at Dunedin Assembly of God Church, 885 Lake Haven Road, Dunedin
  • Precincts 256 and 264: Now at Starkey Road Baptist Church, 8800 Starkey Road, Seminole
  • Precinct 629: Now at Bethel Lutheran Church, 3166 N McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater
  • Precinct 326: Now at Largo Feed Store, 295 Central Park Drive, Largo
  • Precinct 102: Now at Bay Vista Recreation Center, 7000 Fourth St. S., St. Petersburg
  • Precinct 631: Now at Highland Lakes Club, 3300 MacGregor Drive, Palm Harbor
  • Precinct 125: Now at the elections office in the county building, 501 First Ave. N. (Fifth Street North entrance), St. Petersburg
  • Precinct 541: Now at to the Centre of Palm Harbor polling site at 1500 16th St., Palm Harbor

Here is the list of changes to polling places in Hillsborough County as of Thursday afternoon:

  • Precinct 906: Now at the Sun City Center Florida Room, 1009 N. Pebble Beach Blvd., Sun City Center
  • Precinct 423: Now at the Tampa Korean Seventh Day Adventist, 7215 Sheldon Road, Tampa
  • Precinct 163: Now at Beulah Baptist Institutional Church, 1006 W. Cypress St., Tampa
  • Precinct 433: Now at the Philippine Cultural Foundation, 14301 Nine Eagles Drive, Tampa

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