SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The Suncoast is already planning for the upcoming elections. In August we have the primary and then, of course, the presidential election is in November. However, with the uncertainty of the Coronavirus, county elections offices are pushing for changes to the way we vote.
“We are all in a new environment. And we’re all just trying to adapt to that – even here at the elections office. There will be the in-person voting option, as well as early voting, that people can take advantage of, but we’re trying to work these new options through that also,” explained Ron Turner, the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections.
Back in March, Florida held elections for the presidential primary, but people were fearful about waiting in lines and coming into contact with others.
Many requested vote-by-mail ballots way past the deadline and never received them. Election officials in both Sarasota and Manatee counties are hoping that by reaching out to voters now, everyone can participate in this year’s elections, in a safe way.
“They don’t have to mail it back in. They can go to one of the early voting sites or drop it on the box. It’s an insurance policy. It’s an insurance policy when you don’t know if you’re going to be sick, or if you’ll get called in to work,” Mike Bennett, the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections, tells us, “It’s a very, very convenient insurance policy to make sure people exercise, what I consider, the strongest obligation we have in our country.”
They would rather have residents mail in their ballots, but they are also working to make sure all precincts will have safety measures put in place for those who choose to vote in person.
“One of the things that we didn’t have last time that we will have this time is hand sanitizer and gloves. All of our poll workers will be in masks, so I think people will feel a little bit safer. We couldn’t get this last time because it was just literally not available,” said Bennett.
They are also expecting a poll worker shortage because the usual tellers are now part of the vulnerable population, so voting locations will most likely have to be consolidated.
“It is a challenging time for us all, we’re trying to adapt. We are doing the same thing here as everyone else, we are giving voters the same options they’ve always had which is vote-by-mail, early voting and voting on election day, but also providing a safe and secure environment for them. We’re always here for them to answer questions and help them to serve them in the best way we can,” expressed Turner.
Sarasota and Manatee counties will be providing those drop box locations, as well as any changes of polling places as we get closer to that first election in August.