Latest Election Day updates: Reports of voter intimidation in Florida – Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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Zac Anderson
| Sarasota Herald-Tribune

We’re looking at what voting on Election Day looks across Florida. Check back throughout the day to get the latest news on voter turnout, the candidates’ final stump across the Sunshine State, and what’s happening at local polling places.

Florida’s top elections official said voting was going smoothly across the state even as an unprecedented 9.1 million voters already cast ballots early or by mail.

“All precincts opened on time, and voters are currently casting ballots,” Secretary of State Laurel Lee said at midday.

Even before polls opened, Florida had reached a 63% turnout level with early and mail-in balloting. Four years ago, the presidential contest drew 75% turnout, and this year’s contest looks on track to surpass that.

“Do not believe everything you read or see on social media,” Lee added, cautioning voters about what they might see about precinct locations, lines, delays or even voter intimidation tactics.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has activated a number of Florida National Guard soldiers and pre-positioned them around the state to help local law enforcement “out of an abundance of caution,” she said.

Meanwhile, Lee said the state was in touch with the U.S. Postal Service to assure that all mail-in ballots will be delivered before the state’s 7 p.m. Tuesday deadline. Vote-by-mail and early voting is already being counted.

“We do know that much of that work has already been completed,” Lee said.

But Lee declined to answer when asked if she thought Florida results tonight would be final enough to declare which candidate won the state. State results will be on

— John Kennedy

Contrasting coronavirus campaigns

When Donald Trump held a big rally in Miami Sunday night on the eve of the election, it was another example of the contrasting campaign styles the president and Joe Biden have employed in Florida this year.

In addition to the Miami event, since September Trump has held rallies with thousands of people in Ocala, Orlando, Pensacola, Jacksonville, Tampa and The Villages. His daughter-in-law Lara rallied a crowd in Palm Beach Gardens Monday.

Biden, meanwhile, had now crowds at his early Florida events, a veterans roundtable in Tampa and a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month in Kissimmee. Instead they were aimed solely at livestream viewers and media audiences.

Here’s a breakdown of the very different approaches taken by Biden and Trump to campaigning in Florida this year, and how the coronavirus turned an election that already was highly anticipated into something nobody alive today has ever experienced, with the virus drastically altering everything from how people vote to grassroots tactics.

Trump and Biden aren’t in Florida today, but Biden’s wife, Jill, made a stop in St. Petersburg and Melania Trump voted in Palm Beach.

— Zac Anderson

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which has filed about 30 lawsuits to expand voting access this election season, detailed a series of election issues in a morning press call, including allegations of voter intimidation in Florida.

Many of the complaints were common Election Day issues.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director, said the highest call volume coming into the Election Protection Hotline, where voters in all 50 states can report issues, has come from Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, with Pennsylvania accounting for 15% of traffic. Many of the callers reported technology issues, people having trouble accessing poll sites, sites that opened late or voter ID and registration issues.

In Florida, there were reports of voter intimidation, including a man yelling through megaphone and a man with a concealed weapon. The reports had been brought to attention of election officials, Clarke said. There were also reports of people who could not report with a provisional ballot. 

— Grace Hauck

Florida could be on pace for record voter turnout.

The record for a presidential election is 83% turnout in 1992.

At least one Florida elections official is raising the possibility of historic turnout in his county.

“If today’s voting pace continues, we could see record turnout in Sarasota County,” said Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner.

Tim Fanning

Targeting key voters in Florida

Florida is a massive state of 21.5 million people that includes a mix of people from around the nation and the world. It also is highly diverse, with large groups of Black and Hispanic voters.

Every election cycle there is a lot of speculation about these groups of voters. Will Black voters turnout in high enough numbers for Democrats to be successful? Can Republicans win enough Hispanic voters to make the electoral math harder for Democrats in Florida?

But for all the attention on various racial demographics, the biggest trend in Florida this year had to do with voters of a certain age.

Senior voters always get a lot of attention because they are the most reliable voting block and there are a lot of them in Florida, but this year they are in the spotlight even more because of the coronavirus.

Seniors are the most susceptible to becoming seriously ill from the virus, and polls indicate many of them have concerns about how Trump has handled the pandemic. Even a small shift in the senior vote, which leans Republican, could hurt Trump.

— Zac Anderson

Melania Trump cast her ballot Tuesday at a precinct near her home in Palm Beach.

Supporters gathered outside the polling location where the First Lady was voting.

Trump was asked why she didn’t do early voting with her husband.

“It’s Election Day, so I wanted to come here to vote today for the election,” she told pool reporters.

Lee County in Southwest Florida reported problems Tuesday morning with ballot counting machines.

“The Lee County Supervisor of Elections Office is aware that the second page of the ballot containing constitutional amendments is not being read by the tabulators at several precincts. We are currently investigating the issue,” reads a statement from the Lee County Supervisor of Elections. “Poll workers are instructing voters to place the second page of the ballot in the emergency bin of the tabulator.”

Michael Braun

The Tuesday morning update from Florida Division of Elections shows that nearly 9.1 million people voted by mail through Monday evening, or at early voting locations. That’s a voter turnout of 63% before the polls opened today.

Democrats led by 115,416 ballots when the polls opened, but Republicans are expected to have a stronger Election Day turnout. How strong the GOP push is, and how independents break, will be crucial factors in the race.

Florida Democrats had a similar lead in ballots cast in 2016 heading into Election Day, but Trump still carried the state.

Florida’s voter turnout hit 75% in 2016. The record is 83% in 1992.

Here’s an earlier overview of the pre-Election Day vote totals after early voting ended Sunday.

A polling location in Indian River County was shutdown and voters had to be redirected elsewhere because of concerns about COVID-19.

The Indian River County Supervisor of Elections office posted about the closure of the American Legion voting site late Monday evening and posted on its website that location “has been shutdown due to COVID.”

— Will Greenlee

Lines were reported at polling locations around the state Tuesday morning as polls opened on Election Day. 

In Jacksonville about 40 people were waiting at one precinct, while in St. Petersburg a line of voters snaked down the sidewalk outside a library.

In Sarasota 11 people were in line at the Southside Baptist Church voting location shortly after polls opened. They were dressed warmly for the crisp weather.

Sarasota businessman Alli Elhage, 53, voted for President Trump.

“Politicians don’t get much done, businessmen do,” he said. 

Retired Sarasota teacher Terry Langlois, 73, cast his ballot for Joe Biden. Trump’s “been a disaster,” he said.

Langlois spent 20 years teaching emotionally impaired children and said “that’s why I understand Trump.”

Tiffany Reed, 43, said she is “putting myself in the position of my friends of color and my friends in the LGBTQ community. I think Joe Biden is a better choice.”

But Reed has no illusions that the election will solve the country’s problems.

“I’m worried about how this country is going to come back together,” she said. “I’m worried about how divided we are and I don’t think this election is going to fix that.”

— Zac Anderson

Happy Election Day!

One of the wildest presidential campaigns in modern memory is coming to a close. There also are big races for Congress, the state Legislature and local offices on the ballot, along with amendments to the Florida Constitution, such as a $15 minimum wage.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. ET to 7 p.m. ET in much of the state. Polls are open from 8 a.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET in the western Panhandle. 

— Zac Anderson

Florida is at the center of presidential politics once again, with the eyes of the nation on America’s largest battleground state to see if President Donald Trump wins and keeps his reelection hopes alive or Joe Biden delivers a knockout punch.

A must-win state for Trump, Florida is also being closely watched because it counts mail votes faster than other swing state and could be an early indicator of the final outcome in the presidential race.

Elections in Florida can get complicated. The state is known for electoral dysfunction. Florida also is known for incredibly close presidential races, and 2020 is likely to be no different.

Success in the state often is a matter of small shifts in big demographic groups, such as the senior vote in Southwest Florida, Hispanics in Miami-Dade County or suburban voters around Orlando and Tampa, all of which could make a big difference in the final outcome. 

Here’s a breakdown that shows the five things to watch for today in Florida.

— Zac Anderson


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