Wednesday afternoon in South St. Petersburg, Democratic congressional candidate Charlie Crist was joined by other members of the community in calling on Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark to add an early voting polling site in South St. Petersburg.
“Voting is a precious right. Having an opportunity to cast that ballot is something that people have fought and died for,” Crist said at a press conference held at the Lake Vista Recreation Center on 62nd Avenue South. “As Governor, the request to me was to expand the early hours of voting [in 2008]. And I signed an Executive Order to do just that. Supervisor Clark, we’re asking you — pleading with you, frankly — to put a site for early voting in South St. Petersburg. The community here deserves it, and you have the authority to do so.”
Pinellas County Democrats over the past couple of weeks have continued to call for Clark to expand the number of early voting sites that she intends to open when early voting commences in a few weeks. As it stands now, there are only five, with the closest one to South St. Pete appearing on Fifth Avenue North.
Clark has pushed for years to get Pinellas voters to vote by mail, and in each election cycle, more Pinellas voters are doing so. But with more people expected to vote on Election Day, Democrats have contended that it’s unfair not to open at least one more site.
“Establishing a site here at Lake Vista is exactly what should happen, to make it convenient, to encourage participation,” said House District 68 Democrat Dwight Dudley. “There are segments of the population that are certainly paid their dues, and for many years didn’t have a fair chance to vote. We can do better today.”
“This community has made it clear: they want in-person voting opportunities in South St. Petersburg,” said Leah McRae, representing Mayor Rick Kriseman’s office. She said that the city of St. Petersburg had “repeatedly” pledged to offer any support necessary to open an early voting site on the Southside.
“I want to reiterate: this offer still stands today,” McRae said. “We are willing to bend over backwards to work with Supervisor Clark to make in-person early voting an accessible and easy option for this community.”
“Too many have sacrificed in order for us to have this right, simply to have this request be virtually ignored,” said Corey Givens, President of Pinellas County Democratic Black Caucus. “So today Supervisor Clark, we come pleading to you that we as voters, we as your constituents, deserve better. We deserve early voting locations here, close to home.”
Shortly after news conference, Crist’s GOP opponent in the race for Congressional District 13 seat in Pinellas, David Jolly, wrote his own letter to Clark, calling on “your office ensure that all communities throughout Pinellas County have equal access to early voting locations.”