$20M from feds sought for voting
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.