As a candidate trying to win a seat on the Dade City Commission next month, Ann Cosentino knows it’s important to engage with voters to get her message out.
- Elections still scheduled Pasco-Polk counties, some municipalities
- Officials working to ensure safety of Florida voters
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But with the coronavirus changing everything about the way we conduct ourselves in public now, she’s stopped in-person campaigning. And that’s why she was extremely reluctant to participate in person at a candidate forum scheduled for Thursday night.
She won’t have to now, after the Rotary Club of Dade City announced Wednesday morning that the forum has been changed to an entirely digital production.
But the election in Dade City and five other cities in Pasco County is still scheduled to take place on April 14.
“I definitely feel that it should be postponed,” Cosentino said on Wednesday.
Attorney Knute Nathe, who is also running in the Dade City Commission District 4 race, says he understands the extraordinary circumstances going on in the country right now, but notes that hundreds of people have already voted-by-mail in Dade City.
“I think we still have the ability to move forward with it, even in light of the coronavirus,” Nathe says.
Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley told Spectrum Bay News 9 earlier this week that he had been in contact with officials with the Division of Elections about the election date, but as of now, it’s still scheduled for April 14.
Municipal elections are scheduled to take place in six Polk County cities in less than two weeks.
“Looks like we’re still online to have the April 7 elections,” Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards said in an email earlier this week. That’s all good with Bartow City Commissioner Trish Pfeiffer, who is up for reelection next month.
“Personally, I would just like to get it done and over,” she says. “I think those that want to vote and are afraid to come the polls will be doing the early voting.”
The directive from Tallahassee is for the elections to take place.
“As is always the case, the Florida Department of State will closely assess all conditions that affect the August and November elections, including any ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Mark Ard, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of State. “We, like you, and the rest of the nation are monitoring the coronavirus pandemic, and we will recommend any appropriate accommodations or decisions as we move closer to the election dates and understand more about the ongoing impact to our state.”
Ard’s statement went on to say that like last Tuesday’s presidential preference primary election, the Division of Elections will work with local Supervisors of Elections to ensure the safety of Florida voters.
“Voters are encouraged to utilize the many resources available, including online voter registration, requesting vote-by-mail ballots and contacting their local Supervisor of Elections about upcoming election dates, including municipal elections,” he told Bay News 9 in an email, without addressing the elections taking place in the next few weeks.
During last week’s presidential primary elections, local supervisors of elections emphasized that they were taking precautions to make the in-person voting experience safe. That included including having hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and tissues at polling locations and having poll workers wipe down equipment frequently.
Nevertheless, in some cases, hundreds of poll workers chose not to show up to precincts throughout the state because of concerns about the coronavirus.
Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, says it’s “concerning” that the municipal elections in Polk and Pasco are still scheduled to take place.
“This is concerning. It seems, at this point, the safest course to take would be postponement and then getting mail-in ballots to all of the registered voters in those counties. Of course, this is not our decision to make, but that would be our recommendation.” Brigham told Bay News 9.
In the days leading up to last week’s primary election, Gov. Ron DeSantis rejected calls by some organizations calling on him to postpone the statewide contest.
“We’re definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We’re going to vote,” DeSantis said at a press conference four days before Florida’s March 17 primary. His statement came after officials with the state of Louisiana became the first state in the country to postpone their presidential primary because of the pandemic.
Since then, eight other states and Puerto Rico have all postponed their presidential primary elections, citing the coronavirus outbreak. The Pennsylvania Legislature is expected to vote this week on delaying their state’s primary, the New York Times reports. Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming have now switched to voting entirely by mail.