Back to the “super centers” for the upcoming special election to fill the vacant District 7 seat in the Florida House of Representatives.
Supervisor of Elections John Hanlon received formal permission Tuesday from the state Division of Elections to employ the “super center” approach used in November’s mid-term elections for the upcoming special state election.
“The entire special election is modeled exactly as it was in November,” Hanlon said.
Hanlon would establish his Long Ave. office in Port St. Joe and the Wewahitchka Public Library as the two voting sites, beginning with early voting for the April GOP primary and continuing through the primary, early voting for the June general election and the general election.
The primary is just for Republicans and the registration book for the special election is closed.
In addition to the “super centers,” Hanlon also received permission to mail ballots to displaced voters not living at the address the Supervisor of Elections has on file.
Under normal circumstances, a signature would be required.
Displaced voters can call 229-6117 or go online at www.votegulf.com to order a ballot.
Additionally, the state allowed for extended early voting.
Early voting for the primary will begin March 30, a Saturday, and continue every day through April 7, a Sunday.
“I am giving everyone as much as time as possible to vote,” Hanlon said, noting he chose to hold early voting on two Sundays.
On the two Saturdays, hours will be 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. ET (7 a.m. until 4 p.m. CT) and on Sundays voting will be open 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. ET (8 a.m. until 4 p.m. CT).
On weekdays, early voting will be held 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. ET (6:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. CT).
The primary date is April 9; voting will be held 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. ET; 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. CT.
“This will maximize voter turnout given the conditions were have and with also with the extended hours,” Hanlon said.
Hanlon went to the “super centers” in November out of need, with nearly all of his polling locations sustaining damage or being used as storage.
Because the Port St. Joe Fire Station continues to be used by FEMA as a Disaster Recovery Center, Hanlon is moving early and general voting in the upcoming Port St. Joe municipal elections to his office.
But “super centers” also proved something of a boon.
The November turnout was the highest for any federal and state mid-term election in more than a decade.
In addition, it helped cut costs.
The Board of County Commissioners was hoping for approval of the “super centers” to have the cost of the special election, which County Administrator Michael Hammond called “an unfunded mandate.”
The projected cost of holding the special election, using all county polling places, is roughly $76,000, Hanlon said; “super centers” will cut that cost by 50 percent.
For the county that money must come from reserves.
Hanlon said other counties in the 10-county district, including Calhoun and Liberty, were struggling with funding the special election, which is actually two elections, he added.
Eventually, the county will be reimbursed, but Hanlon said it typically takes two to three years for reimbursement.
The BOCC has asked the state for a quick turnaround on reimbursement of the special election costs,
The special election was called after former Rep. Halsey Beshears was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to head the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
The 10-county district has no member in the Florida House during the ongoing legislative session.
Candidate qualifying closed last month with four Republicans qualifying, Port St. Joe’s Jason Shoaf, Lynda Bell, Virginia Fuller and Mike Watkins, along with one Democrat, Ryan Terrell.
The winner of the Republican primary will face Terrell in the general election June 18.