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David Jolly’s call for expanded early voting sites not shared by Pinellas GOP

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Charlie CristDavid Jolly matchup is one of the most keenly observed congressional races in the country. And while the two continue to engage in strong partisan rhetoric against each other, they did come together in common cause this week in calling on Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark to expand the number of early voting sites.

However, Clark still isn’t interested.

“She feels as though that our election plan provides equal ballot access to all Pinellas County voters,” said Jason Latimer, a spokesperson for the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office.

Early voting begins in Pinellas County Oct. 24, and Clark has maintained she will open only five early voting locations in the county, a smaller amount than is happening in similarly sized counties around the state. While voting by mail has become more popular each election cycle, nowhere has that style of voting been employed more than in Pinellas, thanks in part to Clark’s efforts to encourage voters to do so.

Of the five previously announced early voting sites in Pinellas, none are located further south than Fifth Avenue North in downtown St. Petersburg. That’s prompted Democratic Party activists and elected officials like Crist and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman to call for another site to be opened in South St. Pete. And on Wednesday they were joined by Jolly, who wrote to Clark asking, “that your office ensure that all communities throughout Pinellas County have equal access to early voting locations.”

Not all Republicans agree with Jolly on requesting Clark to expand early voting access, however.

“I think Deb Clark is doing an outstanding job as supervisor of elections and her plan for this election is incredibly fair and non-partisan,” says Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Nick DiCeglie. “The outreach her office has done in all communities over the last 16 years is a testament to her professionalism and non-partisanship.  I encourage all voters who may have difficulties getting to an early vote location or to their neighborhood poll on election day to request an absentee ballot. It has never been easier for ALL voters to exercise their right to vote.”

Although Jolly and DiCeglie appear not to be on the same page regarding early voting, that’s not the worst thing in the world for the GOP incumbent. In a district that has been redrawn to make it much more Democratic friendly, Jolly has been campaigning as a representative who listens to the public, and not party leadership. That’s the same independent ethic that has created a fissure between himself and his party’s leadership in Washington D.C.

More than 2.6 million ballots were sent out to Florida voters this week, a record amount.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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