DeSantis Signs Executive Order Waiving Some Florida Election Laws
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on Thursday waiving portions of Florida’s election law in response to the devastation wrought in some parts of the state by Hurricane Ian.
The order comes two weeks after the Category 4 storm devastated parts of southwest Florida, and after intensive lobbying from both voting rights groups and election officials.
In a letter from Maria Matthews, director of the Florida Department of State, dated Oct. 2, Tommy Doyle, supervisor of elections in hard hit Lee County asked that DeSantis sign an executive order allowing the county to conduct the 2022 general election using voting centers instead of its traditional election day precincts.
“Hurricane Ian devastated Lee County and its neighbors,” Doyle wrote just days after the hurricane made landfall.
“In Lee County, there remain few viable Election Day polling locations post-storm. Several established polling locations no longer exist. Securing a sufficient number of poll workers to staff 97 voting sites will be problematic. Hurricane Ian has displaced countless Lee County voters and poll workers from their homes.”
Among the steps Doyle requested be taken were converting the county’s 12 early voting centers to voting centers to be used through Election Day.
In addition, he sought the waiving of some rules related to getting mail-in ballots in the hands of voters and requirements related to poll worker training.
Earlier this week a coalition of voting rights groups asked DeSantis to take “emergency actions to ensure access for all Floridians.”
Members of the coalition included the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, All Voting is Local Florida, Common Cause Florida, Equal Ground, ACLU of Florida, Campaign Legal Center, Demos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Among the things they asked for was an extension of the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election.
During a press conference in Pine Island, Florida, on Wednesday, DeSantis acknowledged the extensive damage done by the storm to both Lee and Charlotte counties, but said, “my sense is the other counties probably are in good shape.”
He also said he wanted to change as little as possible before an election that’s now less than 30 days away, telling reporters that departing from what people are used to “just creates problems.”
Despite the fact Hurricane Ian raced across the Florida peninsula just a week before its counties were due to send out mail-in ballots, all 67 counties appear to have met the deadline.
Some questions remain, however, about whether ballots were deliverable to voters’ addresses of records, and next week’s start of early voting on Oct. 24 remains a concern.
The order signed by DeSantis on Thursday allows Charlotte, Lee and Sarasota counties to implement a number of emergency changes for the upcoming election.
These include allowing officials in the three counties to extend early voting until Election Day and designate additional early voting locations; allowing voters in the three counties to request their mail-in ballots be sent to an address other than the address on their voter registration; and allows for ballot drop boxes to be moved and polling places consolidated.