Florida to allow early mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 concerns, report says

Gov. Ron DeSantis issues executive order

Since COVID-19 first made its way to the state, the pandemic has caused upheaval for plans made and those yet to be set in stone.

With 2020 an election year, talk about safety surrounding voting in summer and fall has been a point of contention for lawmakers and voters.

On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that would allow some flexibility under state law for elections supervisors to begin processing mail-in ballots earlier than the law would typically allow, according to the Miami Herald.

The state has 67 local elections offices, many of which have been sounding the alarm for months, asking the governor for guidance as to how residents could vote without risking their health to do so.

Under his order, DeSantis set forth policies that would help keep state employees in their home counties, preventing them from traveling to other areas and possibly bringing COVID-19 with them. DeSantis said he hoped this provision would help alleviate potential staffing shortages while prompting officials to find effective ways to enforce social distancing and allowing for sanitizing between voters.

“I find that the strict application of some provisions of the Florida Election Code may prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with the COVID-19 emergency,” DeSantis said in the order.

Mary Jane Arrington, supervisor of elections in Osceola County, said the governor’s order won’t help the county in the primary election but it will in the general.

“It allows state workers, who we don’t have a lot of in Osceola County, they will be given time off with pay, administrative leave to help us on Election Day,” Arrington said. “We have longer to canvass mail ballots, and we do expect a record number of mail ballots from what we’re seeing. Voters are concerned that they may not be able to go out in August or November to vote, so they’re signing up for mail ballots.”

Arrington said extra precautions will be taken during the elections.

“During early voting, they will be behind sneeze shields, plus they will be required to wear a mask,” she said. “We’re going to have throw away secrecy sleeves and you’ll be signing the signature pad with a Q-tip instead of a stylus that you can throw away.”

Voting will be held in August and in November in Florida.

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