Voters in this November’s municipal election in St. Petersburg can vote either by mail or on Election Day, but currently there are no plans for early voting in the city.
What You Need To Know
- The St. Petersburg municipal election takes place on Tuesday, November 2
- There is a mayoral race and four city council races on the ballot
- Vote-by mail ballots will begin going out to voters at the end of this month
- More Politics headlines
Voting rights advocates, current city council members and a couple of city council candidates held a news conference on the steps of City Hall on Thursday to make the plea for the city to operate at least one early voting site in advance of the election.
“The fact that we don’t have early voting this year is something that kind of snuck up on us, because we assumed because we’ve always done it before that we would be doing it this year,” admitted City Council member Darden Rice. “We didn’t realize until late to find out that wasn’t the case.”
Rice said that she will introduce a proposal at the council’s Sept. 30 meeting that would ensure that early voting is available for every St. Pete municipal election in the city as of January of 2022.
Speakers said that they hoped that the city can find a way to open up at least one early voting site in advance of the election – but there is no guarantee that will happen.
The City Clerk, and not the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, is running the municipal election in St. Pete this year, as it’s the only election taking place in Pinellas this fall. Rice says that it was explained to her that because only St. Petersburg issues were on the ballot, Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration “opted not to do early voting.”
The mayor’s office directed Spectrum Bay News 9 to speak directly with the City Clerk, Chan Srinivasa.
In an email, Srinivasa wrote that if the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections agreed to amend the City’s contract for the upcoming election, it would cost the city approximately $312,000 to add three early voting sites to “comply with statutory requirements for geographic distribution.” Such an amendment would require the approval of the city council and the mayor.
Dustin Chase, a spokesperson for the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, said that the city signed separate contracts with the SOE’s office in advance of both the primary and general elections earlier this summer, and in neither case did they request that they wanted any early voting locations.
City Councilman and mayoral candidate Robert Blackmon, said at the press conference that he supports early voting, and was disappointed that the mayor’s office did not include that part of the election process when they negotiated with the SOE’s office.
“I think a lot of people are disappointed. A lot of people are surprised,” he said.
Ken Welch, Blackmon’s opponent in the mayoral race, said in a text message that “I’m interested in exploring any effective ways to expand access to the ballot box.”
Dr. Linsey Grove, the president of the League of Women Voters in St. Petersburg, said that voters expressed “surprise and confusion” when they spoke with League officials before the August primary election to learn that there was no early voting available. “Voters were telling us how they now had to rethink their voting plan. And you know what? It is confusing,” she said.
Two city council candidates, Mhariel Summers running in District 6 and Richie Floyd in District 8, also said that they hoped that an early voting option could be included to expand the pool of voters going into the November election.