ST. PETERSBURG, FL — "Be an October voter, not a November voter," was the message for the St. Petersburg community from local and state politicians on Saturday morning at the "Roll to the Polls" kickoff put on by "Voting is Our Voice" at the Tropicana Field parking lot.
Early voting in St. Petersburg starts on Oct. 19, and Stephanie Owens, founder of Women Talk Black, stressed the benefits of using the drop-off ballot box near Gate 1 at the Tropicana Field for early voting.
"Because of COVID, we know that some voters are reluctant to vote in-person, and so we're promoting the fact that Tropicana Field has the only drive-up, drop-off place to bring your ballots (in St. Petersburg)," said Owens.
Members from the Pinellas County Urban League, League of Women's Voters, Come Out St. Pete, Mayor Rick Kriseman, Congressman Charlie Crist, State Rep. Jennifer Webb and the Rev. Watson Haynes were many of the officials showing support at Saturday's event.
"There are a number of issues that when we go to vote are on the ballot," Kriseman said. "Climate change is on the ballot, education is on the ballot, health care is on the ballot, criminal justice is on the ballot, science is on the ballot, women's rights are on the ballot, LGBTQ rights are on the ballot, equity is on the ballot, poverty is on the ballot, racism and anti-Semitism is on the ballot. Hate is on the ballot. But so is empathy, love, compassion and kindness. They're on the ballot, too."
Kriseman said these issues show why it's more important to vote now than it ever has been.
Voters were urged by the mayor not to wait until Nov. 3 to cast their votes, but to take advantage of mail-in voting or early voting. Kriseman said mail-in voting is a safe option to choose and so is early voting.
Volunteers were at the event handing out masks and pins that read, "Reclaim Your Vote; Protest To Power."
Young people were told by elderly and other young people at the event the importance of voting, and for them to know that every single vote matters.
"I definitely don't think that young people take voting as seriously as they should," Adam Johnson, 23, told Patch. "Lots of students and lots of my peers say that their vote doesn't really matter, one vote won't really make a difference on Election Day. Our votes do make a difference, and we should represent ourselves by voting. Go vote. Don't just stay at home because this is the most important election of our lifetime."
Loralei Matisse, co-chair of Come Out St. Pete and a member of the LGBTQ community, encouraged residents to use their voice by voting, and ask questions about what they don't know on the ballot. If a voter doesn't understand everything on the ballot, they can reach out to the League of Women Voters or other sources that can offer thorough explanations.
"I know that we have all seen in the current year of this administration, the division, the creation of hate that is breathed, it is bred and it is scary," said Matisse. "So I know that we all standing here are absolutely wanting a different outcome. That's why we're here, that's why we're standing and that's why we're reclaiming and using our voices."
St. Petersburg voters can drive up to drop off their ballots starting Monday at 8 a.m. at the Tropicana Field drop box location.
"We want voters to feel confident in the voting system, we want them to continue to believe in their ability to exercise the franchise, and come on and bring those ballots," said Owens. "Roll to the polls."
"Voting is Our Voice," is the campaign that put together Saturday's event.
Early voting information:
The other early voting location in St. Petersburg is Supervisor of Elections Office, County Building, 501 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg.
If you have not requested a mail-in-ballot, October 24 at 5 p.m. is the deadline to make a request.
Early voting is Oct. 19 through Nov. 1 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Drop off hours at the Tropicana Field are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.
Voters who want to vote early should present a valid photo ID and a signature ID at the early voting site.
All ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
The Tropicana Field drop box location is not accepting drop off ballots on Election Day.
For more information about early voting in St. Petersburg, visit Vote Pinellas.