Florida Officials Must Extend Early Voting, Vote by Mail Deadlines Amid Coronavirus Concerns

Voting rights group urge swift action to protect ballot access and public health ahead of March 17 primary

TALLAHASSEE–Amid growing concerns about coronavirus ahead of the March 17 primary, All Voting is Local, Common Cause Florida, Election Protection and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law urge Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee to extend the days and hours of early voting, extend the vote by mail deadline, open additional vote centers in all counties on Election Day, and use emergency funds to notify voters directly of any voting changes.

“These measures will provide registered voters with more options for casting their ballots outside of their assigned polling locations and without having to endure long lines,” the groups write in their letter. “We are particularly concerned about the very real danger that registered voters will not appear to vote at their assigned polling places on Election Day due to the numerous recent changes in locations of polling places, including those in assisted living facilities, resulting from concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.”

The groups specify the following recommendations in their letter:

  • Expand early voting in all counties through Monday, March 16, 2020.
  • Extend the hours for early voting in all counties.
  • Extend the deadline for vote-by-mail ballots to count all ballots postmarked by Election Day as long as they are received within 10 days of the election.
  • Open additional vote centers in all counties on Election Day, where registered voters can vote outside of their assigned polling locations.

As officials consider a move to vote centers, they must choose locations in communities of color, ensure the sites are staffed with trained poll workers, and notify voters ahead of time of any changes — all recommendations made in a recent report by All Voting is Local.

The groups also urge officials to use emergency funds to cover these changes and to inform voters about them. It is essential that officials have the resources to amplify rapidly shifting plans that will impact voters as daily announcements are made about poll worker shortages and poll place closures.

The letter states: “State officials should allocate emergency funds to Supervisors of Elections for advertising and direct voter communication about poll place changes as well as to defray the cost of implementing any of these new processes to ensure that all of Florida’s registered voters have confidence that they have a means of voting without risking their health and safety.”

All Voting is Local will continue to encourage impacted voters to check their polling place in advance of March 17th, and encourages all Floridians to call 1-866-OUR-VOTE if they are experiencing any problems voting.

Last week, All Voting is Local and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights launched “And Still I Vote,” a national call to action to overcome discriminatory barriers to voting, such as polling place closures, and to help ensure that all eligible voters get to cast a ballot and have it counted.

The letter can be found here.