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Post office won't help you vote

It seemed like a good idea.

With the presidential election coming, wouldn't it be great if people could pick up voter registration applications and vote-by-mail requests at their local post office?

"We try to place voter applications anywhere we can," said Nancy Whitlock, a spokeswoman for the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Office. "We want people to have access to the applications."

The local chapter of the National Association of Letter Carriers thought it was a gem of an idea, but needed permission from officials at the Postal Service headquarters in Washington.

Both parties were surprised at the answer: no.

Answering questions about voting could take up too much of workers' time, plus, the brochures could clunk up the look of the lobby, officials said.

"If you allow an organization to take up space within the Postal Service, to be fair, you'd have to open that space to any organization," said Gary Sawtelle of the Postal Service, based in Tampa.

Postal policy does allow government agencies to use available space in post offices for a fee, he said, but the elections office request didn't indicate it was willing to pay or provide a person to supervise the brochures and applications.

"Any time you put information in the lobby, anybody that has a question is going to present it to the clerk," he said.

The letter carriers union isn't happy with the decision.

Voter participation is part of the union's mission, said Joseph Henschen, a local union executive vice president.

"It's a nice air-conditioned lobby," said Henschen, whose chapter represents letter carriers from Dunedin to Punta Gorda. "It's just one more avenue for them to do it."

By law, voter registration forms are supplied at libraries and Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles offices.

Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at nhutcheson@sptimes.com or (727)893-8828.

Post office won't help you vote 06/03/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 5, 2008 1:15pm]
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