Mail-in ballots exceed precint voting in St. Petersburg District 1 City Council primary election

08/30/11 Janelle Irwin
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The three-way primary for St. Petersburg City Council District 1 is underway today. One candidate will be eliminated by the time polls close at 7, while the remaining two move on to the general election in November. Polling places were quiet in areas of Northwest St. Petersburg, but overall participation may exceed previous years.

Charlie Gerdes, Josh Shulman and Bob Kersteen are the stars of St. Pete’s single-district primary. Endorsements could play a roll in deciding winners in this election. Kersteen’s campaign signs advertise endorsements from the Police Benevolent Association and the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. Gerdes got backing from the St. Petersburg Times and current city council member, Karl Nurse. But one Gerdes supporter made her decision based on something else.

Terry Albanese said the other candidate, who she later said was Shulman, told her what people did in the privacy of their own homes was their own business. Albanese is also concerned about environmental issues. She said in a field of other candidates, Gerdes had better plans to make the city more environmentally friendly.

One thing was missing at the polls this election morning, besides voters. That was the groups of campaigners standing on corners making final efforts to win votes. There were none at Pasadena Community Church or Walter Fuller rec center. North Reddington Beach Mayor Bill Queen was collecting petitions for a candidate for Sheriff. He said voter turnout hasn’t dropped; it’s just changed its medium.

And Pinellas Supervisor of Elections spokesperson Nancy Whitlock verified that. As of 10 this morning, 2,130 voters had submitted mail in ballots. That’s 10.6% of registered voters. As of 11, voter turnout at precincts had not even reached 1%. Whitlock hopes those numbers will as much as double based on new voting trends.

The St. Petersburg Times reported the cost for this election at about $150,000, or $67 per vote. An alternative to holding a separate primary election is Instant Runoff Voting where there is guaranteed to be a winner with more than 50 percent of the vote on the first try. Advocates for IRV, like Sarasota’s Anthony Lorenzo, say instituting an instant runoff system, where voters get a chance to rank their preferred candidates, would save money and be more democratic.

Whitlock wouldn’t say her official stance on IRV, but did say the cost of the election calculated by the Times may be too high.

After the polls close, you can find results of the election at their website. For questions about this or other elections in Pinellas county, call 727-464-VOTE.

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