Hurricane Michael could cost people their votes in upcoming election

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -

Hurricane Michael ripped into the gulf coast as many people were in the process of voting by mail for the November election.

It's likely most of those ballots were lost in the devastation.

What impact the storm has had on precincts and polling places is still unclear.

But it’s what happens after the storm that could have an even more significant impact on the election.

Already Governor Rick Scott is asking CNN to postpone an upcoming debate with Senator Bill Nelson.

For people who had their lives turned upside down, it's likely that voting is the last thing on their minds.

But how political leaders respond to the crisis could change that.

“Hurricane Michael cannot break Florida,” said a reassuring Governor Rick Scott.

But scenes of leveled homes could impact the November election.

“People are worried about putting their lives back together. The election is not first and foremost on their minds,” said Political Consultant Terry Miller.

The storm hit 35 counties. Tens of thousands of people already started casting their ballots by mail.

“Many of these people may have their ballot sitting on their kitchen table. They can't find their kitchen table or find their homes,” Miller stated.

Terry Miller said voters in the northern panhandle are focused on cleanup.

He points out however government response could be what persuades many to vote in the midst of the disaster.

“There are people who will appreciate or not appreciate that response and will hold the government accountable at the ballot box,” Miller noted.

It's possible many of neighborhoods may no longer even have polling places.

Lee Election Supervisor Tommy Doyle is predicting a nightmare for these counties.

“They were right in the middle of training poll workers. They'll have to get back and start that over. Everyone is shut down. Those counties have evacuated. Poll workers were evacuated. It's a mess,” Doyle said.

And the last thing many voters want right now is negative ads.

“Usually the truce flag goes up, and we focus on recovery,” Miller pointed out.

That hasn't happened as both sides firing away.

“It's problematic without a doubt,” said Political Consultant Dennis Pearlman. Pearlman argues the stakes are too high to take the ads down.

“If you thought it was good enough to say before the hurricane, then it should be good enough during and after,” Pearlman stated.

However, voters may have the final say.

Lee County Election Supervisor Tommy Doyle said that he's looking at creating a mobile voting site which could be used in disasters like the one in North Florida.

He'd like to have it available to set up in neighborhoods devastated by a storm, but admits the legalities would still have to be worked out.


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