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Lee County elections supervisor says governor’s order likely falls short for 2020 cycle

There’s a push across the state to get people to vote by mail. Some counties are even making it easier to just send back a form. Election officials have asked the governor to ease some restrictions for months over concerns voters and poll workers won’t turn out because of the coronavirus.

Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order to support the idea, and we looked at whether this move comes too late.

We spoke to Tommy Doyle, the Lee County supervisor of elections, Thursday, and he says the state’s attempt to make changes ahead of this election cycle are too late.

Doyle says the executive order is too late for the primary election in exactly two months. And he says it still might be too late for the general election in November as well.

Elections offices across the state are encouraging people to vote by mail, including Lee County.

“If you want to go to the polls early voting or election day, you’re welcome to it,” Doyle said. “But expect to stay in line. There will be lines because we’ll have to adhere to protocols to protect the voters and the poll workers from COVID-19.”

Doris Cortese, the vice chairman of the Lee County Republican Executive Committee, says she always requests to vote by mail.

“Number one, it’s the safest thing with the pandemic,” Cortese said. “Number two, you never know what the weather is going to be like on election day. You never know how some of our seniors will feel. It’s number safer if they stay at home and vote by absentee ballot.”

The executive order allows local election officials like Doyle to start processing mail ballots sooner, lets state employees become local poll workers and encourages social distancing and cleaning at the polls.

But Doyle says it came a few months too late and doesn’t do much.

“We can’t go back and change everything that we’ve already submitted,” Doyle said. “That’s calendars for canvassing board meetings. That’s our dates for mailings. We’ve already sent availability and assignments to poll workers. We have everything in motion for our august primary, and we’re not going to go backwards and change everything now.”

Doyle said he would have liked to have seen early voting extended to election day, and he believes voters should be able to vote at any precinct.

Early voting starts August 8 in Lee County.

“If I were the supervisor of elections, I would be a little disappointed because they asked for this and didn’t get it in time,” Cortese said. “So now, a lot of it is useless.”

That includes the general election in November.

“I think it’s not going to impact it as much unless something really goes wrong in the primary,” Doyle said. “But I like to be consistent in both elections, so we don’t have voter confusion.”

MORE: OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR EXECUTIVE ORDER NUMBER 20-149

Reporter:Andryanna Sheppard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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