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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014
Elections

Pinellas leads in voter turnout

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Published:   |   Updated: August 26, 2014 at 10:59 PM

Pinellas County led voter turnout in the Tampa Bay area by a wide swath, with 23.95 percent of its 617,925 registered voters casting ballots in the mid-term election.

That county followed a statewide trend with 77 percent of its voters casting ballots through the mail. Secretary of State Ken Detzner says for the first time in state history people using absentee ballots and voting by mail may have surpassed the number of people voting on election day.

Hernando, with all but one district in, and Hillsborough counties lagged behind in voter turnout with 15.98 percent and 15.79 percent of registered voters casting ballots, respectively.

Some who voted in Hillsborough County, where there are 756,328 registered voters, went into their polling places with a mission.

At a precinct location where more people were showing up for baseball practice than for voting, Charmaine Jennings said she had a purpose.

Teachers often are so busy taking care of students, they only make it to the polls for the big elections,” Jennings said. “We wind up not getting what we need. We need to have better participation,” she said, after walking out of the Forest Hills Community Center on 109th Avenue in Tampa, where she votes.

For some in Pinellas, at least, it was a matter of patriotism.

Lee Koenig of St. Petersburg said he did his research before heading to the polls to vote. “I try to vote in every election,” he said. “It’s my civic duty and I’m proud to be able to do it.”

David Egbert, of St. Petersburg, showed up for the governor’s race. He said a vote for Charlie Crist drove him to the polls. “He’s the guy who has the best chance of winning... Nan Rich may be a wonderful person, but she doesn’t have a chance of winning.”

Nancy Whitlock, communications director for Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, said voting by mail has been a trend there since 2008.

As for the turnout, Whitlock said it is on par with the past two mid-term elections in 2010 and 2012, when 24.5 percent and 23 percent of voters, respectively, cast ballots.

In East Tampa Tuesday, at the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. Library, hope for a more economically robust community brought Yvette Lewis in to vote.

She came out specifically to support Ed Narain, a Democratic candidate for the District 61 legislative seat.

“I attended a political forum and heard a lot about what he wants to do in Tallahassee, to help African Americans establish more businesses in the community,” Lewis said. “All I heard from his opponent was that he’s a Republican.”

Zakiyyah Sanders said politics are often discussed in her house. “If you don’t vote, you can’t talk about it,” she said. “I felt it was important.”

In Pasco, 14.92 percent of the county’s 302,285 registered voters turned out Tuesday to cast ballots.

Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley called it a “disappointing, lackluster turn-out, even worse than the 18 percent that turned out in 2010. We do everything we can to get people out to voice their opinions” but it just doesn’t always work, he said.

Pasco, too, followed the state trend, with a 90 percent increase in mail-in ballots this time over 2010, Corley said.

Gene and Joann Huber, heading into the YMCA of the Suncoast in Spring Hill Tuesday morning, said they don’t even have to think about whether they will vote at an election. It’s automatic. “I feel it’s our patriotic duty,” Gene Huber said.

Reporters Matt Dixon of Tribune-Scripps Capital Bureau and reporters Kate Bradshaw and Michael Bates contributed to this report.

yhammett@tampatrib.com

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