Presidential Preference Primary still on schedule amid coronavirus concerns

With the coronavirus outbreak, there are concerns that people won't show up to vote in the Florida Primary on March 17, but elections officials say they are doing everything to keep voters and workers safe.

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee on Friday joined her counterparts from Arizona, Illinois and Ohio in trying to ease concerns of voters and poll workers about the novel coronavirus as the states prepare for presidential primary elections Tuesday.

“We are working closely with our state health officials to ensure that our poll workers and voters can be confident that voting is safe,” said a statement from Lee, Arizona Secretary of State Kathy Hobbs, Illinois Elections Board Chairman Charles Scholz and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday noted that some Florida voting sites in assisted living facilities will be moved.

“It’s just not worth the risk,” DeSantis said. “That may mean some voters get inconvenienced who aren’t part of those communities. But to me, it’s a no-brainer to err on the side of the safety of our residents. These primaries, the way this has worked out, I mean quite frankly are not going to be cliff-hangers.”

COVID-19 is closing some polling sites like one at a Volusia County assisted living facility. They will instead use a church.  And another site in Daytona was also relocated.  In Orange County, a polling site in Lake Nona was changed for the same reason.

"I’m glad that they moved it away from the assisted living because you don’t want them to get it," says voter Jean Latham.

Volusia Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis says 40 poll workers canceled at the last minute. Orange and Seminole counties also had cancellations, but back up poll workers are quickly filling in.  Hand sanitizer and wipes are available for everyone working.

"In some cases, the poll workers themselves have asked about it.  We’ll start distributing supplies to the poll workers this weekend. All the equipment behind me will be delivered to the precincts on Monday," Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles says.

Elections officials say so far voter turnout is normal, but Orange County Democratic Party Chair Wes Hodge says the numbers look a little low.

"Obviously, people are very concerned right now. We’re encouraging people to continue to vote. In an abundance of caution, we’ve canceled a couple of events. In fact, the presidential campaign had events throughout Florida, even Orlando, that were canceled."  

Local Republicans are also canceling. Orange County Republican Party Chair Charles Hart says, "I don’t that open-air rallies are large groups are going to be gathering for support of any political candidate because right now people are concerned because the President has said, it is something to be worried about."

Voters like Latham say they’ll be careful.

"I’m looking at it like it’s the flu and those same precautions. Don’t touch anything. I’m looking at it like it’s the flu. And those same precautions. Don’t touch anything."