TAMPA, Fla. — Health leaders are taking extra safety precautions for voters and poll workers ahead of Florida's primary election on Tuesday, March 17.
Those precautions include equipping polling places with guidelines for sanitizing voting machines and proper handwashing techniques. It's all part of an effort to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
"Precinct-based voting, where voters go to the polls and cast a ballot, is unlike the gatherings our health professionals have advised Floridians to avoid," said Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee during a Monday afternoon press briefing.
"It is quick, it is community-based."
Election leaders in Florida, Arizona, Illinois and Ohio crafted a joint statement to assure voters they are coordinating with health experts to make sure voters can safely cast their ballots.
Ohio as of late Monday, however, is working to close polls despite a court order rejecting a lawsuit calling for a delay.
"Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday," the joint statement said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said postponing the election would suggest that we're paralyzed when we're not.
"We’re not going to panic," he said. “At the end of the day, we’re dealing with this in a thoughtful way."
Poll worker shortage
Meanwhile, many poll workers have backed out as a precaution -- forcing Florida counties to make last-minute changes and in some cases change or consolidate polling locations.
Hillsborough County has seen about 100 poll workers drop out. So, election officials are putting back-up plans in place to ensure that the election proceeds.
The county is also taking steps to encourage social distancing and making wipes and hand sanitizer available at voting locations.
The county even said voters are allowed to have designees pick up ballots and return them -- as long as they fill out two forms. This signed affidavit allows a designee to pick up your ballot, and you also have to complete this Election Day Absentee Ballot Delivery Affidavit to affirm that an emergency is keeping you from voting at your assigned location.
A designee can return the ballot in person to any of the four Hillsborough County Election Offices. Additionally, they can drop it off curbside at the Election Service Center at 2514 North Falkenburg Road in Tampa.
Manatee County has seen about 30 poll workers back out due to concerns about COVID-19. Election Supervisor Mike Bennett said he would run an election one way or another, but this might be a good time for voters to consider signing up for Vote-by-Mail in the future.
Likewise, Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said his county would make it work, but this is one of the most challenging scenarios he's seen. Pasco has had about 150 poll workers back out.
“This might be the only time that I would ever discourage anyone from coming to the polls. If you are not feeling well or are unsure, it’s just not worth it," Corley explained.
How can I find if my polling place changed?
Polling places and voter registration status can be found at your specific county’s Supervisor of Elections website.
Pinellas County polling place changes.
Pasco County polling place changes.
Hillsborough County polling place changes.
Polk County polling places.
Sarasota County polling place changes.
Manatee County polling place changes.
Hernando County polling places.
Citrus County polling places.
10News reporter Josh Sidorowicz contributed to this report.
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