If dealing with the severe damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael wasn’t bad enough for government officials in a series of counties in the Florida Panhandle, those same governments also must run a full-scale election in less than three weeks, as elections officials struggle with damaged voting locations, displaced voters, power problems, disrupted mail service, and internet outages.
“Some voters are asking questions on how we are going to be able to have an election in these catastrophic conditions,” said said Gulf County Supervisor of Elections John Hanlon, as he set out his “Recovery Election Plan” for the November 6 elections.
“With so many homes damaged or destroyed we have many voters displaced, with questions of if and when they can even return,” Hanlon added, noting that his county had “many polling locations damaged or designated as shelters.”
Next door in Bay County, home to Panama City, the notice on the website of Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen is straightforward:
The story is the same for a number of elections offices in the Panhandle which were in the path of Hurricane Michael.
“We will update the status of our office day by day on when we will be able to reopen,” said a notice posted on the website of Franklin County Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley.
Further inland in Liberty County, Supervisor of Elections Gina McDowell had a similar message.
“Due to impacts from Hurricane Michael, our office is closed until further notice.”
In next door Calhoun County, nothing has been posted on the elections website since before the hurricane struck the Florida Panhandle.
“Due to the extreme damage suffered during Hurricane Michael, our office will remain closed until further notice,” says a notice from Jackson County Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Stephens.
“The November 6 General Election WILL still be held,” Stephens emphasized, detailing at least four voting locations which ‘sustained serious damage’ and will not be open for voting on Election Day.
Other election offices are lending a hand.
“We are working towards successful elections here in Leon County, and we are assisting our neighboring counties in their recovery efforts and contingency plans for the upcoming 2018 General Election,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley.