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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Obama camp unhappy with Clark over early voting



The local Obama campaign is hearing from voters and elected Rs and Ds who are upset with Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deb Clark's limiting of early voting locations to the minimum number required by law.

Adrianne Marsh, Florida campaign spokesperson for the Obama campaign, said there were nine early voting sites in Pinellas during the 2004 presidential elections and that comparable counties in the state will average eight locations this time around.

On Oct. 20, the Republican Clark will begin early voting at just three locations.

"It's a major problem as far as we're concerned," Marsh said. "Democracies should encourage voting, not hinder it."

Clark has maintained that early voting does little to increase turnout and is not worth the expense. She has aggressively championed voting by mail as an alternative. Clark did not return a call placed after business hours.

A week ago, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor released a letter she had written to Clark, urging her to increase the number of early voting sites for the election.

So, is there an organized effort by Democratic leaders and the Obama campaign to put pressure on Clark?

Pinellas DEC chair Toni Molinaro said she hadn't heard anything from the state party on plans to put the squeeze on Clark, nor had she heard anything from the Obama campaign.

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, a Democrat, said early this week an Obama staffer asked whether he'd be interested in taking part in a press event to urge Clark to open more sites. Welch said he told the staffer Clark's position has merit and that although he supports early voting, the State Legislature has gutted its promise by cutting back on the number of early voting hours allowed.

There may be more to come on the topic. Marsh said the campaign and local elected leaders are discussing ways to bring Clark around. A joint letter of some kind is one option, she said.

"This is an issue that is bubbling to the surface," Marsh said. "And you're likely to hear more about it in coming days."

The time may have passed, however, to increase sites even if the steadfast Clark could be budged.

"It's too late in the process, practically, to get it done," Welch said.

Will Van Sant, Times staff writer 

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:36am]


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