The Pinellas County 4 Step

How to vote in Pinellas County

For those of you living in Pinellas County, election time is not too far away!  In years where we have a summer Olympics, we elect a President of the United States while in years where we have a winter Olympics, we elect a Governor of the State of Florida.  In between the two major offices, we have elections for primaries as well as local races such as the Mayor of the City of St. Petersburg among other things.

 

Before we go on further, this page is Pinellas County-specific.  If you live elsewhere in Florida (such as Hillsborough County), the voting procedure will be basically the same, as paper ballots are mandated by Florida Statutes.  Moreover, if you live outside the State of Florida check the voting procedures in your locale.

 

Our state has two early voting options prior to election day:  Early voting at designated sites as well as having your ballot mailed to you so that you can vote in the comfort and convenience of your home.  After all, people like you and I exercise one of our most important rights as an American citizen:  The right to vote.  Still, the majority of people that go out there and vote do so on election day at the designated polling place.

 

In Pinellas County there are four steps to the voting process when you go to the polls on election day and you can do your part to make the voting experience go smooth for you.

 

Before you go to the polls

 

Most importantly, have you registered to vote in the State of Florida? If you already have, congratulations! If not, you need to register to vote! Florida law mandates that all residents must be registered to vote 29 days before an election, and that means any election no matter if it's municipal, Presidential Preference, Primary or General Election.

Where do I go to register to vote? Hey, it's very easy to register to vote and you can do it from the comfort and convenience of your computer. Simply head on over to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website which you can do by clicking here. Once there, click on the Register to Vote link. (Florida residents outside of Pinellas County should go to the State of Florida's voter registration website at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov to register). If you want to fill out a voter registration form traditionally by hand, the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections has a voter registration form that can be filled out and printed.

What if I changed my address in Florida? The best way to document a change of address - and that is a physical street address where you live, not a mailing address such as a post office box - is to complete a voter registration form. When filling out the form, check the box that it is a record update (address change). It's much better to accomplish this task beforehand before you go to the polls on Election Day.

What if I want to change party affiliations? Again, complete a voter registration form and check the box for a record update (party affiliation change). If you change political party affiliations, you must do this 29 days before an election, especially a primary election in Florida!

Has your signature changed in any way? Your signature is very critical, no matter if you vote at the polls, an early voting site or by mail. Your signature has to be consistent on all election material, and if you need to make a signature update simply complete the voter registration form and check the box for a record update (signature change).

Do you know where your polling place is on Election Day? You're almost home, and you see the sign "Vote Here". You stop, get in line and approach the Inspector only to be told that you are at the wrong polling place! Don't worry, if you show up at the wrong polling place the poll workers will direct you to your polling place. By Florida Law you must vote at the polling place for your precinct on Election Day. You can avoid delays and disappointment by finding out where your polling place is: It's simple as checking the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website and clicking on the Find Precinct link.

Print off a copy of a sample ballot which is made available to you by the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.  This is found in the Tampa Bay Times as well as the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections' website, VotePinellas.com.  An additional benefit of their website is that you can print a sample ballot that is tailored to your voting precinct.

 

In Florida, primary elections are considered closed primaries, as Florida is a closed primary state.  What this means is that during a primary election, you can only vote for candidates within your chosen party (such as Democrat, for example).  On the other hand, during the general election you can vote for whomever you want.

 

Now that you have that sample ballot in front of you, mark it with the candidates that you want to vote for.  That way, you can have your marked sample ballot with you as a reference when you go to the polls to cast your actual ballot.

 

Most importantly before going to the polls

 

Bring a picture and signature identification to the polls on Election Day!  Doing so will help with a smooth voting experience and help you get in and out of the polling place in the shortest time possible.  According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, the following is acceptable picture and signature ID at the polls:

 

Florida Driver License

Florida Identification Card

United States Passport

Debit or credit card

Student or Military ID

Retirement Center ID

Neighborhood Association ID

Public Assistance ID

 

Note that if your photo ID does not have a signature, another ID bearing your signature has to be presented.  Many years ago, the Supervisor of Elections used to issue Voter Identification cards; today this is not the case as the cards issued are now Voter Information cards.

 

If you do not have any ID on you when you go the polls, you can still vote!  However, you will have to vote on a provisional ballot which will be evaluated by the Canvassing Board to determine voter eligibility.  Having your picture and signature ID with you is the ticket – a Florida Driver License, Florida Identification Card or United States Passport is the best.

 

Now that you have your required photo and signature ID with you plus your marked up sample ballot, let’s go to the polls and cast your vote!

 

The Pinellas County Four-Step at the Polls

 

Let’s go through the four steps of voting a ballot at the polls in Pinellas County on Election Day!  Once you arrive at the polls, you will be greeted at the front door by a poll worker - a precinct deputy - whose job is to maintain order in the polling place.  The poll worker will direct you to the table to begin Step 1.

 

Step 1:  This is the voter check in station.  Here you will show the poll worker - an Inspector - your identification (remember the types of identification as mentioned previously?) and prove that your address is correct.  If everything is OK then you will be directed to sign the electronic precinct register - which is called an EVID device - utilizing the electronic signature pad. After that the poll worker will give you a ticket - called a voting pass, similar to a Southwest Airlines boarding pass but smaller - to take to Step 2 located just behind the check-in table.

 

Step 2:  This is where you will receive your ballot.  On the voting pass you received in Step 1, check to see that everything is accurate.  If so, proceed to the Step 2 table and hand in the ticket to the poll worker - a Ballot Distribution Manager - who will verify everything on your voting pass and exchange it for your ballot and a black ballpoint pen.  If you have your own black pen the better! Proceed with all three items to Step 3.

 

Step 3:  Step on over to any one of the many empty voting booths and complete your ballot.  Make sure that you completely fill in the oval next to your selection with the black ballpoint pen provided to you in Step 2.  If you make a mistake – no problem, just see the poll worker back at Step 2 for a replacement ballot.  When you are finished, review your selections on your ballot and, when you are ready, proceed on to Step 4 to wrap up the voting process.

 

A ballot marking machine which is called an Automark is available for your use if you need it.  Simply let the poll worker at Step 2 know and another poll worker will be summoned to help you use the machine.  The ballot marking machine is similar to the touch screen voting system that Pinellas County previously used but it does not record your votes - you still have one more step to complete as shown in Step 4 below.  When you retrieve the completed ballot from the machine, make sure that it has marked with who you voted for.  Speaking of ballots, whether you mark your ballot by hand at the voting booth or using the marking machine, you are restricted to a total of three (3) ballots per Florida Statutes.

 

Step 4:  This is the optical scanner machine where you will feed in your ballot.  A poll worker - known as a Machine Manager - is stationed at this step to assist you in using the optical scanner.  What you will do is to feed in your ballot into the slot on the optical scanner.  If your ballot is marked correctly, the optical scanner will take your ballot, record your votes and deposit it in a locked and secured ballot box.

 

Once your ballot is successfully accepted, return the black ballpoint pen you were given (if you received one) in Step 2 to the poll worker.

 

If you run into any difficulties, by all means ask the poll worker for help.

 

REMEMBER:  Make your ballot selections very carefully!  Once your ballot is fed into the optical scanner and it is accepted and your votes recorded, YOUR BALLOT CANNOT BE RETRIEVED!

 

Finally, collect your “I Voted” sticker from the poll worker as you exit.  Exit through the designated door as directed by the precinct deputy.  Now you have completed the Pinellas County Four-Step and you can be proud of yourself!

 

After voting

 

The polls close at 7 PM - that is pursuant to Florida Statutes.  Sometime after 7 PM, feel free to tune in to your favorite TV media outlet such as Bay News 9 or 10 News, for example.  If you have a computer, feel free to log in to your favorite TV media outlet's web site or the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections' official web site to see if your candidate won.

 

Now going to the polls wasn't as complicated as you think!  The next time you vote, if you voted previously by mail or by early voting, consider going to the polls for a change!  If you receive your ballot by mail, make sure you bring your ballot with you - the Inspector will take your mail in ballot and cancel it so that you can vote at the polling place. On the other hand, if you received a mail ballot but you forgot to bring it with you no worries - the Inspector at Step 1 can find out whether you voted or not.

 

Voting.  It's as American as apple pie.  It's your right as an American citizen.