Many local organizations have stepped up efforts to increase voter turnout for November 3 election. People can request mail-in ballots before October 25. Voters can return mail-in ballots via the U.S. Postal Service or drop them at a number of locations around Pinellas County.
Options also exist for voters who prefer to go to the polls, but do not have reliable transportation, as well as some options for time off to vote.
Paid Time Off
According to Ballotopedia, 28 states require employers to give employees time off to vote, but Florida is not one of them. Some businesses and municipalities are making exceptions to encourage employees and residents to vote. St. Petersburg city staff will receive two hours of paid leave they can use to vote or volunteer at the polls in November’s election.
“I am pleased to provide this opportunity to you and thank you for your continued hard work through challenging times,” said Kriseman in an email to city staff. “While this is the first time such an opportunity has been afforded, my hope is that this is the beginning of a new tradition for the City of St. Petersburg. Please take advantage of it.”
In Gulfport, there is currently no official policy for city staff to receive time off to vote, however Mayor Sam Henderson told the Gabber that if there are any city employees who can’t schedule a time to vote without missing work, “we will certainly work with them to ensure that they can.”
While it’s not the law in Florida, it’s worth asking your employer if they will give you time off to vote.
Drive-thru Drop-off Voting
The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum collaborated with Women Talk Black to create Voting is Our Voice, in partnership with the Tampa Bay Rays and “more than 60 community organizations have joined forces to ensure the largest voter turnout in our city’s history,” wrote City of St. Petersburg Communications Director, Benjamin J. Kirby in a recent press release.
“The rhetoric in the bitter presidential race has left some people discouraged, wondering if voting even matters. It does. Our country is at a crossroads, where whoever wins the presidential race will impact the direction for much more than a four-year term,” according to the Woodson Museum website. “But this election is about more than the presidential race. This election is also about choosing sheriffs who keep our communities safe, commissioners who make decisions on what we’ll pay in taxes and how that money is spent in our counties, and school board members who help decide the quality of education our children receive.”
Sponsors will host a COVID-friendly drive-through, drop-off voting location at Tropicana Field.
“Since the primary election, Voting is Our Voice have worked tirelessly to lessen concerns regarding safe options for residents to cast their ballots during the pandemic,” wrote City of St. Petersburg Communications Director, Benjamin J. Kirby in a press release. “Beginning October 19 through November 1, members of the community can drive through the parking lot of Tropicana Field and safely deposit their ballot. A designated member of the Supervisor of Elections office will manage the daily operation of the site.”
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has long offered free rides to polling places. From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., registered voters can get a free round-trip ride on any PSTA bus or trolley by showing a valid Pinellas voter information card upon boarding.
PSTA encourages riders to prepare for their trip by identifying their polling location and which routes will take them there. PSTA bus operators do not have this information. PSTA bus operators do not have this information. For help with trip planning, riders can call the InfoLine at 727-540-1900 or go to PSTA.net.
Gulfport City Councilmember Paul Ray, with the help of Gulfport Votes 100%, will offer rides to polling places via golf cart. Ray encourages residents to reach out to him personally at 727-698-9847 or message GV100 on Facebook.
Remember! Election day is Tuesday, November 3
Absentee ballot deadlines
Requests: Must be received by October 24.
Return by mail: Received by November 3 by 7 p.m.
Return in person: November 3 by 7 p.m.
October 19 through Nov. 1, but dates and hours may vary based on where you live.
For a complete list of polling locations, go to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website at votepinellas.com.