Early voting sites in Florida GOP strongholds to close early due to hurricane

People wait in line to vote in Westchester, Florida.
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

With Hurricane Zeta expected to hit the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, three counties in this conservative region will shorten their early voting hours, a move that could hurt the GOP.

Escambia, Okaloosa, and Santa Rosa counties are all Republican strongholds, Politico reports, and are expected to easily go for President Trump. But Florida is a swing state, and Republicans have been counting on getting voters to cast their ballots early in person, as more Democrats are returning their ballots by mail.

In Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, early voting hours are normally from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but because of Zeta, the voting sites will close at 3 p.m. on Wednesday before reopening at 11 a.m. on Thursday, assuming there is no extensive damage caused by the storm. In Okaloosa County, early voting sites will close two hours early on Wednesday and open two hours later than normal on Thursday.

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"It's an abundance of caution for us," Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux told Politico. "Hurricane Sally just in September weakened a bunch of trees and power lines, so we need to be careful, but I do think we will get back up and running quickly." Following Hurricane Michael in 2018, which hit the Panhandle a month before Election Day, then-Gov. Rick Scott (R) extended early voting hours.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.