The Slatest

Florida Counties Ravaged by Hurricane Michael Scramble to Give Voters a Chance to Cast Ballots in Elections

Workers on the roof of a hurricane-damaged hotel.
Workers repair the roof of a motel in Panama City, Florida, after it was damaged by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 17.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Florida usually manages to have voting problems without any acts of God, but with much of the Panhandle wrecked by Hurricane Michael, local officials are worried about whether they’ll be able to conduct a normal (for Florida) election in three weeks.

Some 200,000 registered voters in the 2nd District, represented by Republican congressman Neal Dunn, are in the counties worst affected by the storm, according to the New York Times. Vast swaths of the Panhandle have no electricity or phone service, and many residents evacuated before the storm and may not have homes to return to, all of which makes any kind of voting, but especially in-person voting, difficult.

In Bay County, which includes devastated Panama City, local governments are going to set up “mega-voting sites,” which will open starting Oct. 27, when early voting begins, and will accept “all voters in the county regardless of their home address,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

In Gulf County, which sticks out into the Gulf of Mexico from the Panhandle and was hit hard by Michael, the supervisor of elections said in a statement that, while voting equipment itself wasn’t damaged, communication with voters will be difficult as large portions of the county don’t have electricity or phone service and may not for “weeks if not months.” They will be operating two “super centers” starting Oct. 27 while normal polling places won’t be in operation. The county is also emailing absentee ballots to voters who had to leave their homes and allowing them to be faxed back, or they can pick up absentee ballots in person.

Some counties hit by the storm were able to extend the registration deadline, which was the day before the storm hit last week.