Activists show support for their candidates outside the Headquarters building of the Collier County Public Library in Naples. Jen Mitchell, incumbent candidate seeking re-election for District 3 of the Collier County school board, is to the left in the green shirt. (Photo: Author)
Oct. 28, 2022 by David Silverberg
Voting is active and robust throughout Southwest Florida, according to county supervisors of elections.
In its first day of early in-person voting in Collier County, 6,132 ballots were cast at polling stations yesterday, Oct. 27. Combined with 36,630 mail-in ballots, Collier’s turnout is at 16.85 percent of 253,830 eligible voters. So far, 56.15 percent of the ballots were cast by registered Republicans, 25.84 percent by registered Democrats and 16.92 percent by non-party affiliated voters.
Early in-person voting in Lee and Charlotte counties has been under way since Monday.
In Lee County, turnout is running at 19.65 percent, with 18,779 votes cast in person and 83,006 ballots mailed in. Lee County has 518,035 eligible voters. Of ballots cast, 52.28 percent were from registered Republicans, 27.37 percent from registered Democrats and 19.11 percent from non-party affiliated voters.
Charlotte County has the highest turnout of the three coastal counties with 20.75 percent of 152,778 eligible voters having cast ballots so far. Of these, 9,395 votes were cast in person and 22,309 votes were mailed. According to the Supervisor’s office, 50.36 percent of ballots were from registered Republicans, 29.58 percent from Democrats and 18.14 percent from non-party affiliated voters.
Because of the damage and disruption caused by Hurricane Ian, early in-person voting in Lee and Charlotte counties continues until Nov. 7. In Collier County, it concludes on Nov. 5.
Times and locations for early in-person voting are posted on the respective supervisors’ websites.
“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by human beings for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison people because they are different from others,” said Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
During his lifetime King worked tirelessly to expand the voting franchise and get people to exercise it. He called voting “the foundation stone of political action.”
But while today people commemorate King’s legacy and remember his contributions to the country, it’s also appropriate to acknowledge the irony of one of the major opponents of voting rights in Southwest Florida—Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.).
Donalds doesn’t even believe that the United States is a democracy. On January 6, the first anniversary of the insurrection at the US Capitol, Donalds tweeted: “We aren’t a Democracy. We are a Constitutional Republic.”
As though to ensure that voting rights don’t expand, during his time in Congress Donalds has consistently voted against measures to protect the franchise and ballot access.
In this Congress, Donalds voted against the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 (House Resolution (HR) 4), and the For the People Act of 2021 (HR 1), both of which are aimed at protecting people’s voting rights (and both of which passed the House).
“Abolishing voter ID laws, ending signature verification, and putting into place taxpayer-funded campaigns is detrimental to every American’s right to a free and fair election and the harmful rhetoric of President Biden cannot evade this fact,” Donalds argued in a statement at the time.
He defended the filibuster in the Senate even though the filibuster is a practice unique to that chamber and has nothing to do with the House of Representatives—and the threat of a filibuster is now being used to stop HR 1 in the Senate.
What is more, his defense of the filibuster came in the context of his defense of Georgia’s voter suppression law. When President Joe Biden denounced that law as “Jim Crow in the 21st Century” and “an atrocity,” Donalds argued that Biden was “irresponsibly injecting race and the travesty of Jim Crow to oppose the filibuster. Time after time, Democrats resort to the race card to shield them from having to answer for their hypocrisy and radical policies.”
He defended the Georgia law even further in a May 22, 2021 interview with The New York Times: “I think Georgia actually has a very good law. And frankly, it’s sad and, in my view, disgusting that the president referred to it as Jim Crow. It cheapens the history in our country with respect to actual Jim Crow, a disgusting relic of our past. And to try to equate that to what Georgia did, to me, is just completely illogical. It reeks of just the nastiest politics that you could ever want to bring up, to try to divide Americans and divide Georgians.”
He was also a vocal defender of Florida’s voter restriction law, arguing that, like Georgia’s law, “What it does is it actually makes our process cleaner” by reducing the number of drop-boxes and “ballot harvesting,” a practice of collecting mail-in ballots on behalf of other people, a practice outlawed in Florida prior to passage of the bill.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022, Donalds tweeted: “Today, we don’t only celebrate the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we honor his life of sacrifice and dedication that led to America becoming a more perfect union. We are the nation we are today because of men like MLK, and we must keep his dream alive.”
Donalds can start honoring that dream by working to protect and expand voting, “the foundation stone of political action” and stop denouncing, suppressing and trying to restrict it.
The most significant bill suppressing voting in Florida is scheduled for committee consideration tomorrow, March 10—and Florida residents can weigh in with their opposition.
Senate Bill 90 would require voters seeking to vote by mail to renew their mail-in request every year in the calendar year of the election rather than the current two years. That means that voters seeking a mail-in ballot for the 2022 election would have to wait until next year to request it.
Introduced on Feb. 3 by state Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-12-Sumter County), the bill has already been approved by the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.
The Florida Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, has scheduled a hearing on it for tomorrow.
The Miami Herald, editorialized that, “While not solving any real problems, it would force supervisors of elections to scramble to comply and notify voters, costing counties hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Further, it “smacks of a partisan attempt to confuse voters and catch them off guard in next year’s election.”
Florida Democrats have denounced the bill.
“Why do Florida Republicans want to limit vote by mail access? Well it all comes down to who has access to the franchise,” Marcus Dixon, Florida Democratic Party Executive Director told News4 in Jacksonville. “So even though the vote by mail system worked well here in Florida this past election, any time too many people have easy access to the ballot box, Republicans feel like they need to change the rules.”
Manny Diaz, Florida Democratic Party Chair, agreed. “This is not an issue of Republicans versus Democrats, but instead an issue of Republicans versus democracy,” Diaz said. “Florida Republicans keep showing us that when given a choice between defending the rights of voters, or suppressing voter access, disturbingly they will all too gladly suppress, harm and sacrifice our most sacred Constitutional right, on the altar of preserving power for the sake of power.”
Comment: What you can do
Florida residents can weigh in on this issue before, during and after it comes up for a hearing in the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee.
They can contact their state senators and urge them to oppose it.
To find your senator, go to Find Your Legislators and enter your address. Your senator will appear along with a button to e-mail that senator. Tell your senator to oppose SB 90 and keep the mail-in voting provision the way it functioned in 2020.
The members of the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee are:
Collier County, Florida residents now have a new weapon against voter intimidation.
Yesterday, Oct. 27, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office announced that callers can send photos and videos to 911 dispatchers when they call.
This means that any instances of physical voter intimidation or suppression can be recorded on mobile devices and sent live to police as they are happening.
Collier County is the first county in Florida to have the capability. It is part of a national effort to upgrade the 911 system to give it new capabilities in line with advances in personal technology.
“We have always told our community, ‘See it, say it’,” Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk stated in a Facebook post announcing the new capability. “Now we can tell them, ‘See it, say it, send it.’ The more information first responders have, the quicker they can help, and a picture is worth 1,000 words.”
Rambosk, whose law enforcement background is in communications, has worked to keep Collier County policing on the cutting edge of technology. In 2014, Collier County was the first agency in Florida to enable 911 callers to send text messages to dispatchers.
“We are always looking at technology to identify ways we can enhance public safety here in Collier County,” Rambosk stated.
The new cloud-based technology enhances law enforcement and emergency management capabilities in a wide variety of circumstances, including disaster and crime response, missing person searches and accident assistance.
While there have been no reported instances of physical intimidation of voters in Collier County so far this year, there was an incident in Lee County on Oct. 22, when Trump supporters approached a polling place in trucks in a threatening manner.
With the new capability, voters in Collier County can call 911 or the Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number (239) 252-9300 and send photos and/or videos to dispatchers, who will forward those videos and images to first responders.
Engineers and technologists have been trying to upgrade the 911 system since the advent of cell phones and wireless technology. Nationally, there is a program called Next Generation 911 to get new capabilities implemented across the country. The chief capability being sought is enabling dispatchers to determine a caller’s location from his or her cell phone but that has not been achieved yet. (For a 2016 slide presentation on Next Generation 911’s capabilities and challenges, see “Next Generation 911 and FirstNet: A Natural Partnership.”)
In Florida, funding for Next Generation 911 was supported by a fee added to every mobile phone bill. However, during his administration Gov. Rick Scott (R) determined that the fee was a tax and eliminated it, setting back state efforts to advance 911 capabilities.
Incidents of voter intimidation are now being reported in Southwest Florida.
However, there are no clear guidelines to voters on how to respond. This posting will provide some recommendations based on general research, official information and past experience.
Voter intimidation and harassment with the aim of preventing voting is a federal crime and is defined as activities that “intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose.”
The incidents to date
Yesterday, Oct. 21, local Democrats were among people in Florida and Alaska who reported e-mails reportedly from the far right Proud Boys organization telling people they were “in possession of all your information” and “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) attributed the e-mails to Iranian interference and John Ratcliffe, director of national intelligence, told a press conference that both Russia and Iran had obtained voter information that could interfere in the election.
In Collier County, Jennifer Edwards, election supervisor, tweeted: “The Collier County Supervisor of Elections is aware of multiple instances of voter intimidation via email. We are in contact with & working in conjunction with our law enforcement partners at the local, state and federal level, including the FBI, DHS [Department of Homeland Security] & the FL Dept of State.
“If any individual engages in any form of voter intimidation, we will refer the case to state and federal law enforcement. We are committed to providing a safe and secure voting process for all voters. For more information, contact us at (239) 252-8683.”
Trish Robertson, public relations officer for the Collier County elections office, expanded on that to The Paradise Progressive. “…individuals who feel that they are being intimidated in Collier County should contact us right away,” she wrote in an e-mail. Usually, supporters of a party or candidate may just be too exuberant. However, if someone is overly aggressive after talking to an election officer, the office will reach out to the candidate or party to stop the activity. “If we still receive complaints we will contact local law enforcement. Very rarely do we call law enforcement,” she wrote.
As for clothing and paraphernalia at election sites, which some voters have complained is too partisan, “Locally, voters can wear campaign gear in the polling room (passive campaigning); however, they cannot cause a disruption to the voting process or actively campaign for a candidate within the non-solicitation zone.”
In Lee County a voter standing in line at the Bell Tower shops posted a description of an incident on Facebook:
“Ft Myers: election center workers just kicked a caravan of Trumpers off property,” she wrote yesterday afternoon. “They were driving around and around those of us standing in line. They had Trump flags and what-not all over their pickups, seemingly intimidating voters or riling up fellow supporters. Either way the people in charge gave them the boot and told them to stop.”
She elaborated that the polling place “was the one on [Route] 41 by Bell Tower. They [the Trumpers] never got out of their truck or anything but they were slow creeping past those of us standing outside in the line. The election people came RUNNING out, signaling ‘stop!’ stood in their path, pointed to the exit street, there was an exchange of words (I was too far away to hear) and then the lady again pointed to them towards the exit street and they left.”
How to respond
With all election interference, intimidation and suppression illegal at both the federal and state levels, digital, verbal or physical incidents should be immediately reported to three authorities:
The local police;
The election officials on site;
The Supervisor of Elections Office.
Digital threats or intimidation:
DO NOT open any attachments or links in a threatening or suspect e-mail.
Southwest Florida voters turned out in force in Lee and Collier counties for the first day of early in-person voting.
Local media reported long lines and hours-long waits despite rain for voters to cast their ballots in some locations.
Early voting statistics released by Lee and Collier county election officials showed high turnout, especially by non-affiliated voters. While the statistics show the registered party affiliations of the voters casting ballots, they do not show for whom they voted—for example, a Republican could vote for a Democratic candidate and it would not appear in the statistics.
As of 8:50 pm in Lee County, 8,378 voters voted early today in person. Combined with 142,428 mail-in votes cast, that came to 30.84 percent of the electorate has voted so far. Of those votes cast, 62,632 were cast by Republicans, 54,347 by Democrats, 32,345 by non-party affiliated voters and 1,554 by other voters.
In Collier County, 7,397 voters voted early today in person. Combined with 66,486 mail-in votes cast, 31.89 percent of the electorate has now voted. Of those, 35,486 of the ballots were cast by registered Republicans, 23,552 by Democrats and 14,160 by non-party affiliated voters. Other voters cast 700 ballots.
Early in-person voting begins today in Southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties.
Voting by mail has already been massive, according to both counties’ election supervisor offices. In Lee County, 135,997 votes had been cast, a turnout of 27.80 percent, as of yesterday, Sunday, Oct. 18, at 11 am. In Collier County, 61,940 votes had been cast, 26.73 percent of the electorate, as of the same date and hour.
The in-person voting comes after an extraordinarily eventful weekend that began with a presidential visit to Fort Myers on Friday, Oct. 16—and the remarkable snub of what many had considered a rising Republican star.
Donald disses Donalds
Friday should have been a big day for Republican state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), who is running for Congress in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.
Instead, it was a day that saw him forced to declare that he had come down with COVID-19. And to add insult to injury he was ignored and overlooked by his hero and idol, President Donald Trump.
During the Republican congressional primary this summer, few candidates touted their loyalty and subservience to President Donald Trump more than Donalds, who amidst his many accolades said he was “incredibly proud to stand with President Trump.” In the traditional mafia-like mindset in which Trump operates, such loyalty by a soldier should be repaid in kind by the mafia chieftain.
When the Godfather came to Fort Myers, it was an opportunity for a laying on of hands, for a blessing from the Boss himself in front of lots of local media and adoring Trumpers. It might have been the moment when Donalds decisively clinched the election 18 days before the votes were counted.
Instead, Donalds was tested for COVID-19 before meeting with Trump and turned up positive, which he announced on his Facebook page around 5 pm. He couldn’t come in contact with the president and instead of a public anointing it was his very public infection that was the headline about him dominating local news.
But beyond the embarrassment of a vociferously anti-mask Donalds catching COVID, there was the added disrespect (dissing) from his idol and hero.
In his speech at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center, Trump went through a series of shout-outs to local politicians and worthies, acknowledging and praising them.
One should not underestimate the importance of these shout-outs during political speeches and events. They’re something every politician does and while they may seem boring and formulaic to those in the audience, they’re critical to those named. In the case of a politician who has a blindly loyal following like Trump, they are an essential blessing and benediction—especially to candidates running for election.
In the middle of his speech Trump took the time to do a round of shout-outs. He named Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), whose popularity he compared to Elvis; he lauded as “warriors” Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-12-Fla.)—“great job, Gus”—and Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.)—“another friend of mine.” Mayor Randy Henderson (R) was praised—“good job, Randy”—as was Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello (R)—“great job, great job.” He said he was honored by the presence of World War II and Korean War veteran Wally Cortese—“You look good, Wally, I’ll tell you. Two wars and you’re looking—you’re looking good,” (interestingly, not “thank you for your service.”). He also thanked members of the Golden Gate Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard.
And even if Donalds wasn’t present in the audience, any experienced observer of political rituals would have expected a shout-out to a faithful follower, especially one running for Congress from the president’s party, an ally whom the president would theoretically need in a second term. So the next name to trip from the president’s tongue should have been…Byron Donalds.
But there was no naming of Byron Donalds. Instead the president moved on to tell the audience how he was fighting to protect them from “the China virus” and the “radical-left movement.”
Nor was there a subsequent word of sympathy or a get-well wish from the notoriously unempathetic president. Indeed, Donalds got more compassion from his Democratic opponent Cindy Banyai who tweeted: “I wish him and his family well as he recovers.”
Apparently, when you’re COVID-infected you’re already dead to Donald Trump.
Democrats, women, rise up and ride
While the president’s visit brought out his supporters, it also mobilized Democrats and other Biden/Harris supporters.
On Friday, activists conducted a Ridin’ for Biden, “Dump Trump” caravan to counter Trump’s appearance in Fort Myers.
Inspired by an editorial in The Paradise Progressive, activist Wally Hedman, who has organized Biden/Harris rides in the past, served as organizer and lead driver for the caravan.
Consisting of 20-plus cars festooned with flags, signs and bunting, the caravan traveled up Route 41, through downtown Fort Myers and onto Martin Luther King Blvd., prior to Trump’s arrival.
It demonstrated a Democratic presence amid the raucous Trump gathering.
Democratic demonstrators were also on the sidewalks outside the Caloosa Center to show their opposition to Trump. While there were some arguments with Trumpers, there were no physical altercations or arrests.
The following day the local chapter of the national Women’s March took to the streets of Fort Myers when approximately 300 supporters lined the sidewalks to “affirm our shared humanity and declare our bold message of advocacy and self-determination,” according to the local Women’s March website. “We march against sexism, racism, homophobia, religious discrimination, misuse or abuse of power, sexual abuse, discrimination against immigrants, gun violence, denial of environmental injustice, and lack of respect for human dignity,” it stated.
Trump’s appearance at the Caloosa Center was invitation-only and limited to 400 people, although some random people on the street were allowed in just prior to the start of the event. Inside, attendees were distanced from each other and masks were worn. People coming into contact with Trump were tested for coronavirus prior to the event, which is how Byron Donalds’ infection was discovered.
However, on the street outside numerous Trumpers were largely unmasked and crowded together, creating conditions for a COVID superspreader event.
As of Sunday, Oct. 18, the Florida Department of Health was reporting 755,020 cases in the state and a total of 15,967 deaths among state residents. In Lee County that came to 21,625 cases and 492 deaths. However, the Florida COVID Action Site created by dissident data scientist Rebekah Jones, who has charged that the state is suppressing coronavirus data, reports 824,724 cases and 16,118 deaths statewide. In Lee County, it reports 23,005 cases and 502 deaths since March 1.
With an incubation period of 10 to 14 days, Lee County medical facilities should start seeing an influx of coronavirus victims from the Trump visit around Halloween.
Tomorrow marks the last day to cast ballots for the Primary Election in Florida and the final count of ballots cast so far.
While very heavy mail-in voting by voters of all affiliations may have already decided the various contests, in tight races the last few votes cast tomorrow may make the difference between victory and defeat for some candidates.
Despite deliberate slowdowns in mail delivery engineered by US Postmaster Louis DeJoy and President Donald Trump, mail-in voting proved very popular in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting clearly have not deterred Southwest Florida voters of any party affiliation.
In Lee County, as of this writing, 24.6 percent of 468,141 eligible voters have cast ballots.
Of those, the vast majority of 38,624 Democrats voted by mail (36,387) and only 2,240 cast ballots in person in early voting.
Of 60,980 Lee County Republicans who voted, 52,714 voted by mail and 8,261 voted early in person.
Among Lee County non-party affiliates, 14,065 voted by mail and 559 voted in person. Some 571 other voters voted by mail and 21 in person.
In Collier County, 27.43 percent of 217,278 voters (59,594) have cast ballots.
Of these, of the 16,457 Democrats who cast ballots, the vast majority (15,323) did so by mail and only 1,132 voted early in person.
Of the 34,971 Collier County Republicans who voted, 28,838 voted by mail and 6,131 in early in-person voting.
Among non-party affiliated voters, 7,004 voted by mail and 468 voted in person. Some 281 other voters voted by mail and 22 voted in person.
Polls are open in person tomorrow from 7 am to 7 pm. In Collier County, vote-by-mail ballots must be returned to the Supervisor of Elections office at 3750 Enterprise Avenue, Naples FL 34104 by 7 p.m. Postage is not required for ballots that are dropped off.
In a reversal of his previous vociferous opposition to mail-in voting, President Donald Trump now says that mail-in voting is “safe and secure, tried and true”—in Florida.
He announced the reversal in a 12:55 pm tweet today, August 4.
The full tweet stated (capitalization his): “Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!”
It is unclear to what “Democrats attempts” he was referring.
Trump’s previous attacks on mail-in voting were threatening Republican turnout in the key swing state. He has charged, without evidence or outside confirmation, that mail-in voting is “inaccurate and fraudulent” and rigging the election.
According to the Politico article, BaughmanMerrill commissioned a poll that found that “Republicans have become overwhelmingly concerned about mail balloting, which Trump has claimed, without evidence, will lead to widespread voter fraud. A potentially decisive slice of Trump’s battleground-state base — 15 percent of Trump voters in Florida, 12 percent in Pennsylvania and 10 percent in Michigan — said that getting a ballot in the mail would make them less likely to vote in November.”
In Southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties, mail-in voting is well under way.
As of this writing, Lee County is reporting that 67,768 ballots have already been cast. That’s 14.48 percent of a total of 468,141 voters. Of these, 33,329 were Republican, 24,020 were Democratic, 10,006 had no party affiliation and 413 fell into the “other” category.
In Collier County 37,136 voters have mailed in their ballots, or 17.09 percent of the 217,312 voters eligible. Of those, 20,702 were Republican, 10,985 were Democratic, 5,246 had no party affiliation and 203 were “other.”
Also threatening voting by mail are new measures that will serve to slow down and disrupt US Postal Service (USPS) operations. On July 10, Trump’s newly appointed Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, a major campaign donor, sent out a memo to all USPS personnel, announcing elimination of late and extra mail delivery trips.
Despite the new measure, mail has not been delayed in Lee and Collier counties, David Walton, a USPS corporate communications specialist told The Paradise Progressive in response to a query.
Lee and Collier county election officials say they are ready for massive voting by mail in this year’s elections.
Voting-by-mail has become a hot political topic amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
President Donald Trump has denigrated the practice as being subject to fraud, tweeting on April 8 “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” And he added the same day, “Absentee Ballots are a great way to vote for the many senior citizens, military, and others who can’t get to the polls on Election Day. These ballots are very different from 100% Mail-In Voting, which is “RIPE for FRAUD,” and shouldn’t be allowed!”
At the same time others view it as the single most viable alternative to in-person voting, which may endanger people’s health during the current pandemic. On April 15, a panel of Democratic Party officials urged Florida officials and voters to prepare for a big increase in mailed voting this year, according to Florida Politics.
In Southwest Florida, with its strongly seasonal populations, voting by mail has long been in use.
“Statistics show that vote by mail continues to be the preferred method of Lee County voters, with approximately 51 percent choosing to do so in the 2018 Gubernatorial Election,” Vicki Collins, communications director for the Lee County Supervisor of Elections stated in an e-mail response to questions from The Paradise Progressive.
“Lee Elections is prepared to meet the higher demand for voting by mail in both the August Primary and November General Elections,” she stated.
When it comes to in-person activities, she added, the office is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to ensure a safe and sanitary environment for staff and our voters.”
Collier County is even more forward leaning on vote-by-mail.
“We are aggressively encouraging voters to vote by mail,” wrote Trish Robertson, the public relations officer for the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office, in response to The Paradise Progressive’s questions.
The very day Robertson responded, the Collier County elections office sent vote-by-mail request forms to over 211,000 voters.
Not only that, pointed out Robertson, “voters can expect the same dates and deadlines for the elections as prior to this pandemic. This won’t change unless the Governor makes a change in how the election is conducted.”
In an April 7 letter, Florida election supervisors urged Governor Ron DeSantis (R) to be flexible when it comes to voting by mail and made some recommendations for the upcoming elections. (Reproduced in full below.) “We are still waiting on a response,” stated Robertson.
As in Lee County, voting by mail is extremely popular in Collier County, pointed out Robertson.
“Voting by mail has been the most popular way to cast a ballot in the last three elections,” she noted.
In the 2018 Primary, of all voters: 53 percent voted by mail; 17 percent voted early; 29 percent voted on Election Day.
In the 2018 General: 38 percent voted by mail; 32 percent voted early; 30 percent voted on Election Day.
In the 2020 Presidential Preference Primary: 54 percent voted by mail; 22 percent voted early; 24 percent voted on Election Day.
To date, there have been no charges of election fraud in mailed ballots in Southwest Florida.
In this instance at least, Southwest Florida may be a leading region in the nation when it comes to voting by mail.
The letter by Florida election supervisors to Gov. Ron DeSantis:
RE: Recommendations Concerning Election Related Issues Caused by COVID-19
April 7, 2020
Dear Governor DeSantis:
All 67 Florida counties successfully completed the March 17, 2020 Presidential Preference Primary. However , due to the COVID-19 situation and concerns of the public, Supervisors of Elections encountered significant challenges with polling places becoming unavailable, difficulty in acquiring hand sanitizer and other supplies, and substantial numbers of poll workers deciding not to work, many at the last minute.
In anticipation that these challenges will continue and likely will impact the August 2020 Primary Election and the November 2020 General Election, Florida’s Supervisors of Elections request your assistance through the issuance of an Executive Order modifying current Florida statutory procedures. These changes would give each county the flexibility to best administer the election in their county, based on their specific needs. As counties are preparing and making staffing and logistics decisions now, the flexibility and authority provided as soon as possible would be of great benefit.
We anticipate a significant statewide shortage of poll workers for the 2020 elections. While we anticipate that some level of in-person voting will continue, we believe that based on our March 17, 2020 election, alternatives or additional voting methods must be available to counties. We must also advise you that Florida is not in a position, at this time, to conduct an all-mail ballot election this year. Supervisors of Elections must be made a priority for the acquisition of supplies like hand sanitizer and other resources to ensure in-person voting is in accordance with CDC and FDOH guidelines.
For these reasons, we respectfully request modifications to existing statutory provisions and allow or provide for the following:
As provided in your Executive Order Number 19-262 (for Bay and Gulf Counties), suspend applications of provisions of Section 101.657(1)(a) and (b), Florida Statutes, and allow each county Supervisor of Elections to designate additional or alternative Early Voting site locations.
Allow counties the option of beginning Early Voting up to 22 days prior to the August and November 2020 elections, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 101.657(l)(d), Florida Statutes, and allow Early Voting to continue, at the chosen locations, through 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.
Consistent with Executive Order 19-262, concerning relocation or consolidation of polling places, suspend the provisions of sections 101.001 and 101.71(1), Florida Statutes, which require there to be one polling place in each precinct. This will allow the Supervisor the option to relocate or consolidate polling places with Early Voting sites.
Suspend the provisions of section 101.62(4)(b), Florida Statutes and allow the county Supervisors to mail any requested Vote-By-Mail ballots between the 45th and 25th days before the Primary and General Election. Suspend the requirement that the Supervisor mail vote by mail ballots within 2 business days after receipt of a request and allow for 3 business days to mail.
Allow counties to begin canvassing and tabulating Vote-By-Mail ballots upon completion of public test in section 101.5612(2), Florida Statutes.
While there may be additional changes necessary for the August and November elections, which will come to our attention and need your assistance, authorizing these provisions at this time will allow us to prepare for more efficient and safe elections. Thank you for your consideration. Please contact me for any questions you may have.