Clark discusses her Election Day strategy listen10/09/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, under fire for why she has eliminated most early voting sites, explained to the St. Petersburg City Council today why she is doing so.
Clark, who is being challenged on the ballot this year, is allowing early voting only at the Supervisorâ€™s offices in Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg, as required by law. Other supervisors throughout the state are setting up sites not only at their offices, but at city halls and libraries.
Clark said state legislative changes since 2004 have made early voting virtually ineffective by reducing the number of hours that early voting can be made available. State law allows 96 hours of early voting, which she said is a 30 percent reduction from 2004.
She said Supervisors of Elections can only have early voting sites at city halls and public libraries.
But Clark seemed to really have a problem with the new mandate that early voting results must be reported by precinct.
She said she would like to have the state Legislature expand voting hours and allow supervisors to choose large voting centers
Clark said the enthusiasm for this fallâ€™s general election is the greatest she has seen in her 31 years in the business. Her office, which is heavily promoting voting by mail to eliminate waiting in long lines, has sent out 132,000 absentee ballots so far, about 28,000 have been returnedreturned.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker told Clark that based on the problems he saw at the polls for the sparsely attended primary election in August, he fears that there could be a meltdown in Pinellas on Election Day. He asked if the money Clark is saving the county by not opening more early voting sites could be transferred into opening more voting precincts on Election Day.
Clark said she will have higher staffing in place on Election Day.
Clark has also distinguished herself this year by being one of the only Supervisors of Election challenging a provision of the controversial No Match, No Vote law that has been in effect for just over a month.
The law requires that all personal information match the state database. If a driver's license or Social Security card information isn't corrected prior to Election Day, the voter will only be allowed to cast a provisional ballot â€“ pending verification of the information.
Clark is challenging a part of that law â€“ a challenge that could see her end up in court against Secretary of State Kurt Browning. She wants a different procedure.
However, Browning says poll workers can't accept proof of voter identification because they are not County Election Office employees and that the law must be enforced by all 67 counties.
In Floridaâ€™s August primary, participation was at near-record lows, although just the opposite is predicted for the Obama/McCain presidential race next month, Councilman Herb Polson became emotional in comparing the ty
Pinellas County is still looking for more poll workers. If youâ€™re interested, visit Votepinellas.com or call (727) 464-6110.