NewsLocal News


"Vote now" With fewer voting locations, Lee County officials urge voters to cast ballot early

Early voting in Lee County was extended two additional days
Posted at 5:31 PM, Nov 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-03 19:23:50-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — With the midterm elections just five days away, there are growing concerns about voters in Hurricane Ian impacted counties being disenfranchised.

Under an executive order signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, Lee County has consolidated its 97 polling locations into a dozen “super sites” where voters can show up to any of them.

In a county with more than half a million registered voters, having only 12 options is worrisome to the voter advocacy group Common Cause Florida.

“We asked the Supervisor of Elections in Lee County to add just two additional polling places that will help ensure that communities of color, that have been especially hard hit by Ian, have the ability to vote,” said Amy Keith, Program Director for Common Cause Florida.

At the Lee County Supervisor of Elections Office in downtown Fort Myers, workers are already counting the mail-in ballots.

More than a hundred thousand people have mailed in their votes so far.

Another 50,000 people have voted in person at one of the 12 early voting locations.

Fox 4 Investigates asked Tommy Doyle, the Supervisor of Elections if 12 sites are enough.

“I wish there were more,” Doyle said. “But with the resources we have, we’ve used all the resources we can. Especially our staffing. We’ve had poll workers who were displaced. Their houses flooded”

Finding poll workers is difficult across the country, regardless of the hurricane.

A survey from the Brennan Center for Justice found nearly 20% of poll workers planned to quit before this year’s election.

Doyle says there are enough workers for the 12 sites in Lee County, but he’s worried about long lines on election day.

“If it were a normal election, turnout would be good. But because we only have 12 sites, we need more people voting now. You don’t want 100,000 people showing up on election day,” said Doyle.

Early voting was extended two more days under the Governor’s executive order in Lee, Charlotte, and Sarasota counties.

Voters in those counties can vote from now until election day.

“We’re urging people to get out and vote early, vote now,” Doyle said.

“They don’t wait until election day because we will have a line if they wait.”

Genya Coulter, the Senior Elections Analyst for the non-partisan OSET Institute, who herself has worked elections after hurricanes, says despite the steps being taken she expects turnout to be down.

“For those who are displaced, I do think that turnout for those folks does drop,” Coulter said. “Not through any fault of their own, but because they don’t realize they have options like early voting and vote by mail.”

There are also new changes to mail-in voting in Florida.

Under legislation signed by the Governor, so-called ballot harvesting, where a third party collects and drops off absentee ballots, is now a felony.

“You can take as many family members (ballots) as you have,” said Doyle. “And two others that’s not part of your family”

After signing the legislation in April, Governor DeSantis said the law “will give us more resources to make sure bad actors are held accountable.”

“We are really concerned about the impact this could have,” Keith said of the new law. “Especially with voters of disabilities.”