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Broward Moved Voting Sites From Senior Centers. Miami-Dade Is Still Set To Go.

Holly Pretsky

Update: After this story was published Miami-Dade announced eight polling locations would be moved. Please see your county's elections websites for more details about if you might be affected.

As part of the declaration of a state of emergency in Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida, Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Governor Ron DeSantis have asked to limit visitors to nursing homes and senior centers. In response to the concerns, Broward County’s Supervisor of Elections office announced that it was moving seven polling sites away from senior centers and retirement homes due to COVID-19 concerns.

On Friday, DeSantis also said he is prohibiting all visits to nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other sites where seniors gather in Broward County.

Yet as of Friday afternoon, senior centers across Miami-Dade County are still preparing to serve as polling locations for Florida’s primary election next Tuesday, several centers confirmed to WLRN.

The primary election could bring hundreds of outside visitors to the centers, precisely the kind of situation that Gimenez and DeSantis' public statements have aimed to prevent.

"We are in the process of reviewing and contacting all of our Election Day polling places,” said Susy Trutie, a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections office. "If there are any changes in polling place locations, we will advise."

No early voting sites have been moved.

The Centers for Disease Control has called for strict screening of visitors to nursing homes and daytime senior centers in Florida.

On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis asked people to stay away from nursing homes and senior centers across the state for two weeks in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 among the most at-risk population. The prohibition of visits he announced on Friday only applies to Broward County.

“These are important efforts to mitigate the risk to our most vulnerable population to COVID-19, which is our elderly population,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Tallahassee. He urged elections offices across the state to move polling places that might be located in nursing homes or other places meant to care for seniors.

Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin said she took DeSantis’ public statements as a directive to move polling locations from places where seniors live or receive care, if voting in those locations was planned. None of the sites in Monroe County met that criteria, she said.

“He said ‘we’re gonna shut down going into those places, because those are people that are either sick or vulnerable,” said Griffin.

The Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections office has moved seventeen polling locations due to COVID-19.

Repeated calls and requests for the Florida Division of Elections on this topic have not been answered.

In Miami-Dade County, all county-operated senior centers will be closed starting on Monday, March 16, the day before election day.

“We’re working on getting seniors fed now that the centers have been closed,” said Frank Rollason, the director of Miami-Dade’s Office of Emergency Management. “When you do one thing it has unintended consequences, and a lot of these seniors get their main meals at these centers.”

He said Miami-Dade is now working with a vendor that should be ready to start delivering meals to seniors starting on Monday.

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Daniel Rivero is part of WLRN's new investigative reporting team. Before joining WLRN, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion. He can be reached at drivero@wlrnnews.org
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