Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Thursday morning addressing ballot access issues for voters in Charlotte, Lee, and Sarasota counties in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
DeSantis’ order came on the heels of a letter Common Cause Florida and partners in the nonpartisan Florida Election Protection Coalition sent to Florida’s election officials this week, urging emergency action to ensure the many Floridians affected by the storm will have access to the ballot this year.
The coalition urged a number of actions for affected counties that are subject to any Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster designation (24 of Florida’s 67 counties have been designated as eligible for FEMA Individual Assistance).
Among the requests made by the coalition for counties with FEMA disaster designations:
- Allow voters from counties to easily make telephone and email requests to have a vote-by-mail (VBM) ballot sent to a temporary address if they have been forced to relocate;
- Allow Supervisors of Elections (SOEs) to provide expanded early voting days and hours in affected counties;
- Allow SOEs in affected counties to relocate or consolidate polling locations while maintaining equitable accessibility;
- Allow voters throughout affected counties to vote at any polling location in their county on Nov. 8, Election Day or allow SOEs in affected counties to create “vote centers” at which any voter in the county can cast their ballot; and
- Provide robust voter education efforts to communicate changes to voters.
The executive order provides for some important actions to support voters and local election officials in Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties. However, DeSantis’ order fell short by failing to address the needs of individual voters in affected areas outside of the three hardest-hit counties, notably with respect to barriers for displaced voters to request and access their vote-by-mail ballot.
While voters can have their county supervisor of elections send a vote-by-mail ballot to a temporary address, the process currently requires voters to submit a signed request in writing, as opposed to allowing voters to easily make the request over the phone.
Statement by Amy Keith, Common Cause Florida’s Program Director
We know many people’s lives were upended after Hurricane Ian tore through our state just two weeks ago, destroying homes and devastating communities.
Floridians in storm affected areas are struggling to rebuild their lives. Figuring out how to exercise their right to vote for the Nov. 8 election should not be an additional hardship they need to navigate.
That’s why I and our partners in the nonpartisan Florida Election Protection Coalition called on our state leaders earlier this week to remove barriers voters are facing in the wake of the storm.
While I am pleased Governor DeSantis took some initial steps to address barriers for voters in Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties, his emergency order falls short.
For example, we know that the damage and flooding from Hurricane Ian occurred across the state, and not only in these three counties. That’s why Florida voters from any affected county who have had to relocate should be able to easily request by phone to have their vote-by-mail ballot sent to the temporary address where they are staying.
Our governor and election officials must take action to help all impacted voters across the state.
We in the Florida Election Protection Coalition are ready to help voters now, and I urge anyone with questions about how to cast a ballot this year to call or text the nonpartisan Election Protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.