Tampa Bay elections supervisor waiting for Gov. DeSantis to take action to protect upcoming elections

Investigations

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — After a mess of a primary election day in Georgia, Florida’s own election supervisors are worried the same thing could happen here if Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t take action soon.

There were plenty of election problems in the Peach State on Tuesday. Some Georgia primary voters waited five hours or more just to cast their ballots.

“So, we’re going on that four hour mark,” one woman said.

The new voting machines malfunctioned. There was a shortage of experienced poll workers. At nightfall, some were still waiting to cast their ballot.

Now there’s concern that the long lines are a sign of what’s to come.

“I’ll be out here waiting,” said one man. “This is definitely a test for me to be better prepared in November.”

Craig Latimer runs elections in Hillsborough County. He’s also the president of Florida’s Supervisors of Elections.

Latimer sent Gov. DeSantis a letter last month imploring him to take immediate action to protect upcoming elections during the pandemic.

“What do you need to have successful in-person voting that you don’t have yet?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“One of the things is certainly to be able to consolidate polling sites,” Latimer explained.

Latimer’s office tells 8 On Your Side the governor has still not taken any action on their request.

“We got polling sites in Hillsborough County, we can’t get a hold of them, they’re closed,” said Latimer. “We’ve also had some that have responded to us and said we no longer want to be a polling site.”

Across the state, supervisors of elections are concerned about a lack of poll workers, polling sites and also time to properly train staff.

“In Hillsborough County on March 17, we had 346 poll workers who just didn’t show up,” said Latimer. “It was a struggle, all the counties struggled.”

Elections supervisors asked Gov. DeSantis in April to allow them to extend early voting and add or consolidate polling places. Now they’re still waiting for the governor to act – and time is running out.

We are just 69 days away from the primary election in Florida and there are less than five months until November’s general election.

“It puts all the supervisors in a real tough position because we’re having to plan with several different scenarios right now,” said Latimer.

A spokesman in Gov. DeSantis’ Office sent 8 On Your Side the following statement:

Governor DeSantis has met with Secretary Lee to discuss these matters and we will keep you informed of any developments.”

The governor took action after Hurricane Michael. He eased up voting rules in the counties that were hit hard.

Elections supervisors just want him to do the same thing again now.

The Florida Department of State also released a statement to 8 On Your Side:

The Florida Secretary of State is in receipt of the letter from the Florida Supervisors of Elections and we continue to work with them on the issues that confront their individual counties and Florida’s elections as a whole. The Department of State appreciates our relationship with the Florida Supervisor of Elections; we communicate with the Supervisors on a regular basis. The Secretary has met with Governor Ron DeSantis to discuss recommendations regarding election preparation and to discuss the letter sent by the Florida Supervisors of Elections. Additionally, the Secretary and others within the Department of State have discussed the letter and the proposed accommodations with the Supervisors of Elections and we continue to work the Supervisors to prepare for any issues that have arisen – and may arise – for the August and November elections.”

If you have an election/voting concern or tip, please email Investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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