$20M from feds sought for vot­ing

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By An­thony Man

Gov. Ron De­San­tis’ ad­min­is­tra­tion in­tends to use $20.2 mil­lion from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to help the state pre­pare for coro­n­avirus-era vot­ing this year.

“It is Florida’s in­tent to re­quest all of its funds,” Mark Ard, mar­ket­ing and in­terim com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for the Florida Sec­re­tary of State’s Of­fice, said via email. “We are in the process of for­mal­iz­ing our re­quest.”

The Florida al­lo­ca­tion comes from $400 mil­lion Congress au­tho­rized as part of a coro­n­avirus re­sponse pack­age that be­came law at the end of March. The Elec­tion As­sis­tance Com­mis­sion, which ad­min­is­ters the pro­gram, de­scribed it as “emer­gency funds” to help “pro­tect the 2020 elec­tions from the ef­fects of the novel coro­n­avirus.”

Ard said the state plans to “make these funds avail­able in the most ex­pe­di­tious man­ner pos­si­ble and to max­i­mize the full ben­e­fit of these funds to meet iden­ti­fied ar­eas of spe­cific county and col­lec­tive crit­i­cal need.”

Florida’s 67 su­per­vi­sors of elec­tions, who run vot­ing in dif­fer­ent coun­ties, ex­pect a range of new ex­penses to safely run the Au­gust pri­mary and non­par­ti­san elec­tions and the Novem­ber gen­eral elec­tion.

Among them: vastly in­creased in­ter­est in vot­ing by mail, which comes with postage and print­ing costs, and in some cases, new equip­ment to process and count a surge in mail bal­lots. Changes in polling places could also add ex­penses, as tra­di­tional vot­ing lo­ca­tions de­cline to al­low it this year or don’t have enough space to ac­com­mo­date so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

All but a hand­ful of the 50 states have re­quested their shares of the fed­eral money al­ready. Florida needs to come up with a 20% match, which works out to $4 mil­lion.

A May 8 email from Maria Matthews, direc­tor of the Sec­re­tary of State’s Of­fice Divi­sion of Elec­tions, to the county su­per­vi­sors of elec­tions said her of­fice had re­quests from the Leg­is­la­ture’s ap­pro­pri­a­tions com­mit­tees for more in­for­ma­tion af­ter staffers had re­viewed bud­get pro­jec­tions. “It is, as yet, un­cer­tain if the state will be able to cover the over 4 mil­lion dol­lars needed,” Matthews wrote.

With mail vot­ing and early vot­ing dead­lines loom­ing for the Aug. 18 vot­ing, county elec­tions su­per­vi­sors have been clam­or­ing for the money to get ready.

On Wed­nes­day, Craig La­timer, pres­i­dent of the Florida As­so­ci­a­tion of Su­per­vi­sors of Elec­tions, wrote to De­San­tis ask­ing for ac­tion.

“Florida is lag­ging be­hind nearly ev­ery other state,” La­timer wrote. “While we wait, the goods and ser­vices are be­com­ing scarce. We must start or­der­ing sup­plies, re­cruit­ing and train­ing poll work­ers, and se­cure vot­ing lo­ca­tions now.”


A poll worker at the First Bap­tist Church vot­ing site in Hol­ly­wood wears a pro­tec­tive mask and gloves dur­ing Florida’s pres­i­den­tial pri­mary vot­ing on March 17.

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