Mayoral candidate Kriseman calls for early voting in St. Pete municipal election

05/01/13 Seán Kinane
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The City of St. Petersburg will hold an election for Mayor and City Council this year.

The primary is in August, but unlike the 2012 presidential election, there aren’t plans to allow early voting.

That’s gotten groups, like the NAACP, and candidates, like Mayoral hopeful Rick Kriseman, hoping to change the policy.

"First off, my office only recently became aware that the city didn't have early voting for this coming municipal election. I mean, I think that in general the public, including myself up until now, thought there was going to early voting. We had early voting in the 2012 elections and in Pinellas County in general, the turnout was substantial for early voting. So I think it's important because we should be doing everything we can to make it as easy and as accessible for people to vote as we can."

Do you know what the city's rational is for not having early voting in the city election?

"I don't and, in fact, I think when I reached out to some of the members of city council they expressed surprise and didn't realize that there wasn't going to be early voting. So this seems to have been a decision that came from the top."

What kind of pressure are you putting on the city government to institute early voting and what do you think might work in order to get there to be early voting for this election?

"Well I think the purpose of the press conference today is two fold. Number one: it's to call attention to the fact that there isn't, at least as of now, going to be early voting so that our citizens in the community know that this may not be available to them and secondly: hopefully put pressure on the mayor to go ahead and call for early voting and put it in place and hopefully the citizens will reach out to the mayor's office and say, 'Hey, you know, this is something that we want to have the opportunity to do, it's more convenient, and we want to have the opportunity to vote early.'"

And finally, one of the partners with you in this press conference is the NAACP. How do you think that not having early voting might effect minority turnout?

"Well certainly if there is any group that has been disenfranchised over the years, it's the African American community that has had issues with voting rights and opportunities to vote. There was a considerable percentage of the African American population that took advantage of early voting in the last election in 2012, so I think that that's a big factor as to why the NAACP is looking at this issue and saying, ' Wait a minute, we want to have the ability for members of our community to vote early."

Other announced mayoral candidates are incumbent Bill Foster as well as Anthony Lenardo Cates, Paul Congemi and 2009 runner-up Kathleen Ford.

The primary election for mayor and city council is August 27 and the General election is November 5.

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