Election Office urges early voting | News, Sports, Jobs

Election officials always urge residents to vote.

In the wake of Hurricane Ian, that message has a new—and important—twist here in Lee County: Vote early.

With hurricane recovery still under way, the availability of voting sites for the Nov. 8 General Election has been altered from years past.

Lee County, which usually offers 97 precinct locations on Election Day, will only have a dozen countywide.

“It is extremely important for voters to vote before Election Day because there will only be 12 voting sites on Election Day,” said Lee County Supervisor of Elections Tommy Doyle.

The Early Voting period is well underway and, as of Thursday afternoon, just 31.9% of voters had cast their ballot according to the Lee County Elections website. Of those votes, 113,682 were mail ballots and 51,520 were early voting.

With the lower-than-usual Early Voting turnout thus far, officials warn there might be larger queues than in past elections if the majority of voters wait until Tuesday.

“We strongly encourage voters to vote now. Longer wait time are possible if voters wait to vote until Election Day,” Doyle said.

The Early Voting period has been extended to run through Election Day on Nov. 8 with officials hoping voters will take advantage of the remaining opportunities today through Monday.

Early voting hours through Nov. 7 are from 9 am to 6 pm

On Election Day, the hours will be 7 am to 7 pm at the same 12 Early Voting locations.

Hurricane Ian, a storm that will be felt for years to come and remembered for decades, caused the Elections Office to change course from its planned Election Day schedule.

“We encountered difficulty contacting polling places and Early Voting sites to determine whether they were still available or damaged,” Doyle said.

He added that based on the office’s contacts, they established that of 97 Election Day polling locations, 25 were available, 14 were unavailable, and 58 were unsure and could not commit to availability on Nov. 8.

“Many that were not visibly damaged had no air conditioning, roof leaks, plumbing, parking, and debris issues,” Doyle said. “Due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian so close to the election, we did not have the resources to staff or ensure facilities were suitable for use. Some Early Voting sites were unavailable due to damage or were being used as staging areas for emergency responders or human services.”

Finding staff to work those polling locations also became an issue, as a large number of their volunteer core no longer had expendable time and needed to focus on rebuilding.

“After the storm, Lee County poll workers already scheduled to work had evacuated from the county or suffered significant losses that would not permit them to work,” Doyle said. “As a result, poll worker availability was reduced to half those originally expected to work during Early Voting and on Election Day in the Nov. 8 General Election.”

Some community members have expressed frustration at the lack of polling sites on Election Day, especially for those in minority communities. A letter was sent to Doyle from a group of local civil and voting rights activists stating the 12 sites are in predominantly white neighborhoods and precincts in predominant areas of color have been shut down.

The letter states, in part, “We acknowledge the difficulty of preparing for a major election following the destruction of Hurricane Ian. We recognize that your office has been forced to navigate grave challenges and make difficult decisions over the last several weeks… However, we urge you to add just two additional locations that can operate as early voting sites, election day polling places, and drop box locations to ensure that communities of color, which have been especially hard-hit by Hurricane Ian, have equitable access to vote.”

The letter points directly to Dunbar, Brookhill, Cypress Court, and Whitehead Creek neighborhoods as areas that are underserved. Of the 12 polling locations, 10 are located in areas that are 78% white or higher according to the 2020 US Census.

In response, Lee County Elections will add a Secure Ballot Intake Station (formerly known as a drop box) at the Dunbar-Jupiter Hammon Public Library for voters in nearby communities who wish to drop off their Vote-by-Mail Ballot in person.

The Secure Ballot Intake Station will be at 3095 Blount St. in Fort Myers.

It will be monitored by staff and available on Sunday, Nov. 6, and Monday, Nov. 7, from 9 am to 6 pm, the Elections Office said in a release issued Thursday morning.

On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, voters who wish to drop off their Vote-by-Mail Ballot must do so at an office of the Lee County Supervisor of Elections only, from 8:30 am to 7 pm For a list of office locations, visit https://www.lee.vote/Contact-Us.

Citing state law, election officials added that Vote-by-Mail ballots received after 7 pm on Nov 8, are ineligible to be counted.

Voters may find their customized Sample Ballot online at www.lee.vote/Election-Information/Sample-Ballots.

Voting locations, for both Early Voting and Election Day, include:

• Veterans Park Recreation Center- 55 Homestead Road S., Lehigh Acres

• East County Regional Library – 881 Gunnery Road N., Lehigh Acres

• Cape Coral-Lee County Public Library – 921 Southwest 39th Terrace, Cape Coral

• Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office – 1039 Southeast 9th Ave.

• Northwest Regional Library—519 Chiquita Blvd. N., Cape Coral

• North Fort Myers Recreation Center – 2000 N. Recreation Parkway

• Wa-Ke Hatchee Park Recreation Center – 16706 Bass Road, Fort Myers

• Schandler Park Suarez Hall – 419 Royal Palm Park Road, Fort Myers

• Lee County Elections Center – 13180 S. Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers

• Fort Myers Regional Library – 1651 Lee St.

• Estero Recreation Center – 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd., Estero

• Lee County Elections Bonita Springs Branch – 25987 S. Tamiami Trail #105

You may vote at any location.

Florida law requires voters to provide picture and signature identification when voting in person. For a list of acceptable forms of identification, visit www.lee.vote/Election-Information/Voting-ID-Requirements.

So, what does Doyle want voters in the county to know when it comes to the office and its goal to tally votes of all kinds (in person or by mail) accurately and timely?

“We are making voting as accessible as possible for the voters of Lee County in the wake of a natural disaster,” Doyle said. “Voters can be confident that the Nov. 8 General Election will be a safe, secure, and accurate election.”

Upcoming races, as listed on the General Election ballot, include:

• US Senator:

Incumbent Marco Rubio (REP) faces Val Demings (DEM), Dennis Misigoy (LPF), Steven B. Grant (NPA), Tuan TQ Nguyen (NPA), or write-in.

• Representative in Congress District 17

Incumbent Greg Steube (REP) faces Andrea Doria Kale (DEM) and Theodore “Pink Tie” Murray (NPA).

• Representative in Congress District 19

Incumbent Byron Donalds (REP) faces Cindy Banyai (DEM) and a write-in.

• Governors and Lieutenant Governors

Incumbent Ron DeSantis and Jeanette Nunez (REP) face Charlie Crist and Karla Hernandez (DEM), Hector Roos and Jerry “tube” Rorabaugh (LPF), and Carmen Jackie Gimenez and Kyle “KC” Gibson (NPA).

• Attorney General

Incumbent Ashley Moody (REP) faces Aramis Ayala (DEM).

• Chief Financial Officer

Incumbent Jimmy Patronis (REP) faces Adam Hattersley (DEM).

• Commissioner of Agriculture

Wilton Simpson (REP) and Naomi Esther Blemur (DEM) are vying for the seat.

• State Senator District 27

Incumbent Ben Albritton Jr. (REP) faces Christopher Proia (DEM).

• State Senator District 33

Jonathan Martin (REP) faces a write-in.

• State Representative District 77

Incumbent Tiffany Esposito (REP) faces Eric Engelhart (DEM).

• State Representative District 78

Incumbent Jenna Persons-Mulicka (REP) faces Howard Sapp (DEM).

• State Representative District 80

Incumbent Adam Botana (REP) faces Mitchel Schlayer (DEM)

• Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District

seat 2

Julie Camp, David Deetscreek, and David A. Lenahan II face off

seat 4

Mike Bonacolta, Tim Cooley, and Chris Sola-Martinez face off

• Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District

seat 2

Linda R. Carter, Taruas Anthony Pugh, and Moe Yasin face off

seat 5

Cia Gomez-Sherman and Tyler Woodby face off

• Lee County Board of County Commissioners: Districts 2, 4 and 5

district 2

Incumbent Commissioner Cecil L. Pendergrass (REP) faces a write-in.

district 4

Incumbent Brian Hamman (REP) faces a write-in.

district 5

Incumbent Mike Greenwell (REP) faces Matthew “Frosted” Wood (DEM) and a write-in.

• Lee County School Board: Districts 1, 4 and 6

School board seats are non-partisan.

district 1

Kathy Fanny and Sam Fisher are running in District 1

district 4

Incumbent Debbie Jordan faces Dan Severson in District 4

district 6

Jada Langford Fleming and Denise Nystrom are running in District 6, which is an at-large seat and appears on ballots countywide

Voters countywide will decide whether to make Lee County’s superintendent of schools an elective, rather than appointed post.

The ballot language reads:

Lee School District Referendum

“Repealing Resolution Providing for an Appointed, Rather than an Elected, Superintendent of Schools

“Currently, by resolution of the Lee County School Board, the Superintendent of Schools for the Lee County School District is an appointed, rather than an elected, position. Shall Chapter 2022-233, Laws of Florida, which repeals the aforesaid resolution and provides that the Superintendent of Schools shall no longer be appointed by the Lee County School Board, but rather shall be elected in a partisan election by vote of qualified electors residing in Lee County for a term of 4 years, beginning with the 2024 general election, become effective?”



There also are three proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot:

• no. 1 Constitutional Amendment

Article VII, Section 4; Article XII, Section 42

Limitation on the Assessment of Real Property Used for Resident Purposes

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution, effective January 1, 2023, to authorize the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit the consideration of any change or improvement made to real property used for residential purposes to improve the property’s resistance to flood damage in determining the assessed value of such property for ad valorem taxation purposes



• no. 2 Constitutional Amendment

Article II, Section 5; Article XI, Sections 2 and 5

Abolishing the Constitution Revision Commission

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets at 20-year intervals and is scheduled to next

convene in 2037, as a method of submitting proposed amendments or revisions to the State Constitution to electors of the state for approval. This amendment does not affect the ability to revise or amend the State Constitution through citizen initiative, constitutional convention, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, or legislative joint resolution.



• no. 3 Constitutional Amendment

Article VII, Section 6; Article XII

Additional Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Specified Critical Public Services Workforce

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature, by general law, to grant an additional homestead tax exemption for nonschool levies of up to $50,000 of the assessed value of homestead property owned by classroom teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters , emergency medical technicians, paramedics, child welfare services professionals, active duty members of the United States Armed Forces, and Florida National Guard members. This amendment shall take effect January 1, 2023.



-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

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