Florida Democrats concerned polling places might be lost in shuffle

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Coronavirus led to last-minute polling place changes. Is state keeping track? Must it?

Where are all the polling places for Tuesday’s presidential primaries?

Does anybody know for certain?

Some county supervisors of elections had to last-minute changes last week to relocate some polling places because new coronavirus concerns made former some locations, like nursing homes, not great places to send hundreds of strangers.

Democrats expressed concerns this weekend that some polling places might be lost in the shuffle, at least to the state.

The Florida Democratic Party contends that it can’t get straight answers out of Secretary of State Laurel Lee‘s office about where all the changes have been made and so the party wants Gov. Ron DeSantis to step in.

Florida does have presidential primaries on Tuesday, though there’s really no contest on the Republican side, and polls suggest the Democratic contest is over too.

“On Friday afternoon, the Florida Democratic Party and our elected leaders were told that neither the Secretary of State nor the Division of Elections had an up to date list of voting locations for Tuesday’s election,” the party charged in a news release.

That might be. Yet selecting polling places and informing voters where they are not state functions, but rather functions of county supervisors of elections.

Since state officials gave the Democrats no assurances that they know where all the sites are, the Democrats proclaimed they’ll look into that themselves. The party said it is in the process of contacting each of the state’s 67 counties’ supervisors’ offices to get lists of closed or relocated polling locations, and would make the updated list public as soon as possible.

Normally the county parties keep a handle on where polling places are at, and try to have poll observers on site during elections.

And normally locations of polling places can be almost impossible for individual voters to track, short of receiving post cards from the supervisors offices explicitly telling them where to vote. There are hundreds of polling places in some counties. Polling precinct boundaries can be incredibly complicated, splitting blocks. And few people know their own precinct numbers.

But, Florida Democrats vow they’ll put something together for their 5 million voters, and even for the Republicans’ 4.8 million voters.

“In three days millions of Florida voters head to the polls – and the Governor’s office cannot answer the most basic question about our elections – ‘Where should people go to vote?’ This is unacceptable,” FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo stated in a news release issued Saturday. “Florida Democrats are calling on the governor and his administration to immediately provide an updated statewide list of all voting sites that have been impacted, closed or relocated in the wake of coronavirus. Florida Democrats will continue to take aggressive action to ensure voters have the information they need to participate in this election.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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