This week, St. Petersburg City Council backed efforts by the newly appointed Pinellas Supervisor of Elections, Julie Marcus, to expand vote-by-mail efforts and offer pre-paid postage to all voters.
Council also agreed to invite Marcus to speak regarding creating a contingency plan for holding an election during a pandemic, and considerations involved in expanding early voting access.
The Pinellas Board of County Commissioners is expected to float aid to the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections to begin the process of expanding vote-by-mail and to ensure that all ballots are sent with pre-paid postage for their return. Those funds are likely to be reimbursed through federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
According to Council Member Darden Rice, who brought both measure forward to Council, the move to providing pre-paid postage for all vote-by-mail ballots is likely to be standard policy for Pinellas County going forward.
The resolutions passed without much fanfare, aside from Council member Robert Blackmon expressing concerns about politicization of the voting process. “We do already have the largest participation in the state for a large county for vote-by-mail,” Blackmon said. “We are a state that allows vote-by-mail with no excuse or reason for it … I just don’t want to get too polarizing.”
“It’s hard to do or say anything innocuous these days without being polarized,” Rice responded. “This couldn’t be a friendlier resolution if I tried. The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections deserve nothing but recognition and appreciation for the exemplary job they do, especially with vote-by-mail.”
Rice went on to explain that the resolution was intended to get the word out about vote by mail, particularly in the current national context, when vote-by-mail is such an important topic, particularly in states like Wisconsin, which continued with its election through COVID-19.
“I think the more people out there with skin in the game, that are voting, that are participants in our democracy, and being good, engaged citizens, I just think this is a win-win,” Rice said.