Hurricane forces Florida to ease voting rules

State officials in Florida are scrambling to ease voting rules in the counties hardest hit by Hurricane Michael.

Posted: Oct 22, 2018 6:21 PM
Updated: Oct 22, 2018 6:31 PM

State officials in Florida are scrambling to ease voting rules in the counties hardest hit by Hurricane Michael.

The Florida Department of State said in a statement that its "top priority" was ensuring "ample opportunities for Floridians impacted by Hurricane Michael, many of whom lost their homes, to be able to cast ballots while protecting the integrity of the 2018 General Election."

The move comes amid closely watched races for US Senate and Florida governor to be decided on November 6.

"With the General Election less than three weeks away, this unprecedented storm has impacted the normal operations of administering an election in counties that were hit hardest," the statement said.

Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Democratic US Sen. Bill Nelson in a race that could decide control of the US Senate, signed an executive order Thursday allowing election supervisors in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty, and Washington counties to relax voting rules.

The eight counties are home to more than 200,000 voters, according to state officials. The scope of Michael's destruction is still emerging. The storm led to at least 19 deaths.

The governor's order authorizes officials in the affected counties to extend the early voting period to Election Day and set up additional early voting sites. Early voting normally ends the weekend before the election.

Additionally, the order allows displaced voters to request mail-in ballots to be forwarded to a different address and extends the registration date for poll watchers to October 26.

The Department of State said local election supervisors face obstacles that included damaged polling sites, extended phone service disruptions and large numbers of residents without power. There was no reported damage to voting machines or other election-related equipment.

The executive order does not allow voting by fax or email.

"In the hardest hit areas, communication via phone, fax and email remains challenging and would be an unreliable method for returning ballots," the Department of State said. "Additionally, past attempts by other states to allow voters impacted by natural disasters to fax or email ballots have been rife with issues."

Here is how the most affected counties are preparing for the November vote:

Bay County

With nearly 121,000 registered voters, Bay County is where Michael made landfall last week as the worst storm to ever hit the Panhandle.

With the election less than three weeks away, the office of the county elections supervisor still has no phone service.

"The supervisor of elections office is currently closed," the office website said.

"Due to hurricane Michael, the SOE officer currently has very limited resources. We are working to get the office back up and operational as quickly as possible."

The website said four tentative "mega-voting" sites will open from October 27 through November 6: the supervisor of elections office, Lynn Haven Elementary School cafeteria, Panama City Beach Senior Center and Parker United Methodist Church.

Calhoun County

The county has 8,700 registered voters, according to the elections supervisor's website.

Though cell service is spotty in Calhoun and electrical outages could last months, the office of supervisor of elections is open with generator power. It has phone and internet service.

Voting sites at Altha Community Center and the Kinard Public Library will be relocated but the new locations have yet to be determined, the website said. Three "vote-by-mail" drop-off sites will be opened before the election.

Franklin County

The county has 7,768 registered voters.

The supervisor of elections website said the office is closed. Its phone is still out of service.

The Alligator Point Precinct has been moved to Chillas Hall in Lanark Village for the election.

Gadsden County

Gadsden has 29,807 registered voters.

The officer of the supervisor of elections is open.

Gulf County

There are 10,216 registered voters in the county.

The elections supervisor's website said many voting sites have been damaged or designated as shelters.

"The elections office had surge floodwaters come to the door but thankfully no flooding in the office," elections supervisor John Hanlon wrote in a message to voters. "The office was spared significant damage and our voting equipment and servers were undamaged. The elections office is up and running although it is currently on generator power."

The office's phones are down.

On October 27, the first day of early voting, the country will set up two "super" polling sites: one at the elections office, the other at the Wewahitchka Branch Library. Normal polling sites will not be open, according to Hanlon.

Jackson County

The county has 27,997 registered voters.

"While we still have not received power, we are currently holding office hours outside our office to take voted vote-by-mail ballots, vote-by-mail requests to fulfill when power is restored, and registration record updates," the county elections supervisor's website said.

The site said Precinct 3 at Citizen's Lodge sustained serious damage and has been moved to the supervisor of elections office; Precinct 5 at Cypress Park has moved to Grand Ridge Community Center; Precinct 6 at County Commissioner's Administration Building has also moved to the elections supervisor's officer; and arrangements are being made to relocate Precinct 10 at Welcome Assembly of God Church.

Liberty County

Liberty has 4,378 registered voters.

"Due to impacts from Hurricane Michael, our office is closed until further notice," the elections office website said.

Washington County

Washington County has 15,817 registered voters.

County election officials said they expected no storm-related problems for the election.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 51079

Reported Deaths: 2756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12019693
Lake5588248
Elkhart353959
Allen2939134
St. Joseph210669
Hamilton1691101
Cass16449
Hendricks1454100
Johnson1340118
Porter82638
Tippecanoe7709
Vanderburgh7276
Clark69544
Madison67464
LaPorte61628
Howard59858
Bartholomew59745
Kosciusko5754
Marshall5449
Noble51328
LaGrange4849
Boone48244
Jackson4783
Delaware47152
Hancock46736
Shelby45425
Floyd40644
Morgan34231
Monroe34028
Grant31826
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Henry30018
Montgomery29720
Clinton2903
White27410
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Warrick25029
Harrison21722
Greene19432
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Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1649
Wayne1546
Daviess15017
Perry14710
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1352
Ripley1307
Franklin1278
Gibson1202
Wabash1162
Carroll1142
Fayette1067
Whitley1066
Starke1043
Newton10010
Huntington942
Jefferson862
Wells821
Randolph794
Fulton731
Knox710
Jay700
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush613
Posey570
Spencer541
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 64214

Reported Deaths: 3036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11724445
Cuyahoga8979393
Hamilton6781207
Lucas2952305
Marion274539
Montgomery244035
Summit2327209
Pickaway222241
Mahoning1928239
Butler182147
Columbiana137860
Stark1214114
Lorain112069
Trumbull104578
Warren97725
Clark80010
Delaware69815
Fairfield66717
Tuscarawas60410
Lake58923
Medina58232
Belmont56922
Licking56812
Miami50631
Portage49259
Wood48851
Clermont4737
Ashtabula44744
Geauga42543
Wayne37253
Richland3715
Allen35641
Greene3439
Mercer29910
Erie27122
Holmes2595
Darke25626
Huron2402
Madison2169
Ottawa17324
Sandusky16015
Washington14620
Ross1443
Coshocton1423
Athens1391
Crawford1385
Putnam13715
Hardin12312
Morrow1201
Auglaize1094
Jefferson1092
Muskingum1001
Union931
Preble901
Monroe8917
Hancock861
Lawrence830
Guernsey823
Clinton811
Hocking809
Williams762
Shelby744
Logan711
Ashland672
Carroll673
Fulton670
Scioto670
Wyandot635
Brown611
Fayette550
Defiance533
Knox531
Champaign511
Highland501
Van Wert471
Perry441
Seneca412
Henry330
Paulding300
Jackson280
Pike280
Adams261
Vinton232
Gallia201
Noble140
Harrison131
Meigs130
Morgan110
Unassigned00
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