South St. Pete voters: what enthusiasm gap?
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11/02/10 Kate Bradshaw
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photo by Kate Bradshaw, WMNF

This year, there’s much talk of an “enthusiasm gap,” even though many admit there’s no way to accurately predict who’s going to show up at the polls. With factors like rainy weather supposedly influencing voter turnout, only time will tell who’s voting today, and for which candidates. Today WMNF spoke with voters at several south St. Petersburg precincts that overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008, to find out if Democratic support was still there despite this being an off year.

"Everybody ain't too sure what they want to vote for and they don't quite understand a lot of the stuff so ...but I believe it's going to be a good turnout. That's what I believe."

That’s south St. Petersburg resident Ms Dopson, who declined to give her first name. She was voting at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in South St. Pete. That precinct isn’t exactly bustling, but there is a slight trickle of voters here and there. Dopson, a Democrat, says she voted for Kendrick Meek in the US Senate race over independent Charlie Crist, and that, while she likes Crist, Meek was the obvious choice.

"We already had made up our mind we were going to vote for Meek. I think he's going to be a good Senator, I really do. Crist was too, he was a real good guy cause I met him when I used to be a bus driver a long time ago at a church way out on 49th and 62nd Avenue, and he was in that church speaking to those people and he came out to shake our hands and everything. I had my sister-in-law on the bus with me. That was a long time ago. He was a very nice person. He still is."

But a few miles over at a church near Lake Maggiore, Julia Collier, another Democrat, says she’s sticking with Crist.

"I like Crist a lot. He's done a lot."

There seems to be a steadier stream of voters at this precinct, despite the slight drizzle. Democrats have been torn over whether to vote for Meek or Crist since Crist left the Republican Party six months ago, and many are voting for whoever they think will beat staunch tea party conservative Marco Rubio, who is against a woman’s right to choose and doesn’t think humans are causing global warming. Collier says this election is just as important as the 2008 presidential election.

"We can get the same situation in the government with life. ... Things is headed downhill."

She adds that despite what the surveys say, most people she knows are heading to the polls.

"Everybody that had voted, still votes, that I know."

Eddie W. Utley, who’s voting at that same precinct, agrees.

"Everybody is going to vote this year, it's too important."

He says he’s a staunch Democrat, but doesn’t get into specifics on which candidates are getting his vote this year. But he does say he’s not a fan of the way the candidates carried out their campaigns.

"Too nasty, nobody said nothing about the point. They're going after each other so nobody's really going to do anything."

Melissa Edwards is voting at the Campbell Park Recreation Center, where turnout looks pretty sparse. She declines to reveal her party or the candidates she’s supporting, but she says one key factor is determining which ovals she fills in on the ballot.

"Well, it's important to me because of the economy, how it turns out. The past three years that we get back balanced as a people as a whole and being non-biased about it. The Republicans and Democrats, we find a common balance of what's the good for the people."

But Edwards says she expects a low turnout because many potential voters don’t think they can make a difference.

"They think that their vote won't matter, but it really does. No vote, no voice."

Another voter who declines to give her name disagrees.

"Everybody I know that voted then is voting now."

She says this is because the 2010 election is really just another chance to show support for the Obama administration.

"To keep the things that Obama's doing going in the right direction. We don't want to go back to where we came from. We want to go forward, so that's the reason I'm voting."

News reports suggest that everything is going smoothly at the polls, and none of the voters WMNF spoke with today said they had any problems at the polls. But when this reporter went to vote at the Treasure Island polling place, election workers said the machine that tallies completed ballots had broken, and voters had to deposit their ballots in a slot without confirmation that the votes were actually being tallied.

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