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State Representative wants improvements to ballot drop-box accessibility

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Posted at 3:58 PM, Oct 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-11 01:53:00-04

A local state representative insists there aren't enough mail ballot drop-off boxes in parts of Tampa Bay. Representative Darryl Rouson says it's hurting voting accessibility for older adults, disabled and low-income.

Rouson thinks more should be done, when it comes to the number of mail-ballot drop-off boxes. He believes voters shouldn't be forced to mail their ballots from home, due to a lack of accessibility.

"People like the serenity, the security, the idea of going to the poll, filling out the ballot and dropping it themselves. It's a community thing," he said.

Pinellas County has 19 boxes for 950,000 people. Meanwhile, Hillsborough County has 20 boxes for 1.35 million people. Rouson says this isn't enough. He wants the supervisors of election to offer these secure boxes at churches.

"Talk about convenience, talk about motivating people where they are and meeting them where they are. Let's have a ballot Sunday!" he said.

He views it as the duty of elected officials, on both sides of the aisle, to improve voter turnout.

"So that people have access and consider it convenient and exciting to vote," he said.

Rouson believes supervisors of elections, for both counties, have the means to do it.

"My reading of the statute doesn't prohibit this. It may require the supervisor to establish protocal for security," he said.

ABC Action News went to one of Deborah Clark's office, to see if she viewed the number of boxes as a problem. She was not there. Although her Communications Direction, Jason Latimer, emailed a statement:

"Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark has spoken to Representative Rouson, as has our attorney. We explained that we have approved security procedures with the State and would not be adjusting those procedures this close to the election. We have a total of 15 ballot drop-off locations throughout Pinellas County, and we are confident our election plan provides equal ballot access to all Pinellas County voters."

Clark's counterpart in Hillsborough County, Craig Latimer, told us he's never had a problem with people unable to get to the ballots and says he just doesn't have the staff to look over additional boxes. Rouson says, he will keep pushing his idea for church boxes, but we should mention, so far he has not made any formal requests.

"We're doing our research and at the appropriate time I will ask them," he said.