FORT MYERS, Fla. – With numerous residents displaced and voting precincts destroyed by Hurricane Ian, local officials in Lee County are concerned about how the storm could impact voter turnout in the November election.
Lee County’s elections supervisor is asking the state to allow it to switch to voting centers beginning on Oct. 24, to replace the precinct system, in order to allow residents displaced by the storm to vote anywhere in the county.
“My main concern is the people,” Fort Myers mayoral candidate David Ruffin said. “Will they have transportation for the people? Especially for the elderly people that vote.”
Voting in Lee County could play a critical role in the upcoming election. It has more than 226,000 registered Republicans, nearly 129,000 Democrats and 162,000 with no party affiliation, totaling more than 500,000 registered voters.
Request from Lee County Supervisor of Elections:
Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate for governor, thinks early voting should be expanded.
“Obviously, southwest Florida has been through a traumatic experience and every opportunity to make it a little bit easier to cast that ballot by November the 8th, we need to do,” Crist said.
Crist’s opponent, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, said he wants to keep the election “as normal as humanly possible.”
DeSantis said he expects county officials in affected areas to work with the state to find solutions.
“We probably have 50% of our polling places available but we don’t have the staff to even man them 50%,” Lee County Supervisor of Elections Tommy Doyle said.
Doyle said his push for vote centers would decrease the number of provisional ballots from voters casting their ballot at the wrong precinct because of displacement.
“Of course we’re also pushing people to vote by mail,” Doyle said. “Anybody who needs to change (their) address because they’re displaced, we’re telling them to call our office and we’ll get them a ballot.”