Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office fired back against media accusations that his recent ease of voting restrictions in the three counties hit the hardest by Hurricane Ian was due to the fact that these areas lean Republican.
DeSantis announced an emergency executive order on Thursday that expanded mail-in ballot access and early voting availability in Charlotte, Lee and Sarasota Counties after they experienced heavy damage from the Category 4 storm.
When reporting on the order, many mainstream outlets, including the Washington Post and the Guardian, implied that because these three counties are majority Republican the decision was made to help DeSantis’ chances in the midterm elections.
In a statement provided to Fox News Digital on Monday, the governor’s press secretary Bryan Griffin denied that this move was politically motivated and insisted these counties requested special provisions themselves, while others did not.
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“The Department of State corresponded and consulted with Supervisors in every county that was impacted by Hurricane Ian. Supervisors in Charlotte, Lee and Sarasota Counties are the only ones that requested provisions, including in writing, to waive certain requirements in order to provide voters with an adequate opportunity to vote,” the statement read.
It continued, “When you compare the reports on preparation for voting in other counties to that in the three that were granted emergency relief, the distinction is clear.”
The response also quoted letters sent out by these counties’ supervisors highlighting concerns over voter access for the midterm elections.
Lee County reported, “Several established polling locations no longer exist.” Charlotte County responded that “approximately one-third of our voting locations [sic] have been damaged.” Sarasota County expressed concerns over “the viability of some polling locations,” and “a shortage of poll workers.”
In addition, Griffin provided several examples of election supervisors in counties surrounding these areas who said they were prepared for the election in November.
Media criticism of DeSantis’ order pointed to Orange County as an area that faced “historic flooding” and leaned Democrat but did not receive exemptions.
Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, a Democrat, has told local media all 20 voting sites were available.
Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett said, “I don’t expect any issues” with the upcoming election, despite Manatee County being located just north of Sarasota.
Collier County, a county that DeSantis originally won by 30 points, also did not request voting assistance despite being located south of Lee.
“It’s high and dry,” Supervisor Jennifer Edwards told the New York Times on Oct. 4.
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Some mainstream media outlets previously attacked the Florida governor by blaming him for Lee County’s late evacuation order. DeSantis himself pushed back against the media’s focus on Lee County’s evacuation order on Oct. 2, pointing out that the storm was initially supposed to hit Tampa.
“Well, where was your industry stationed when the storm hit?” DeSantis replied. “Were you guys in Lee County? No, you were in Tampa.”