Elderly minority voters fear being disenfranchised in St. Pete

Posted at 6:15 PM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-23 18:15:37-04

A group of south St. Petersburg residents gathered outside of Lake Vista Recreation Center on Friday morning to call for the center to become a designated early voting place. They believe many minority voters are being disenfranchised by not having the early voting option in their neighborhood.  

"We deserve the same opportunities as other communities especially since our access to transportation is so much less," said Pastor Manuel Sykes.

There are five early voting locations located throughout Pinellas County, but for many of these people they would have to drive more than six miles to get to one. Mamma Tee Lassiter is disabled and she worries about her chance to vote.

"It's a process going in, checking in, and I feel rushed," said Lassiter.

She believes an early voting location at Lake Vista Recreation Center would make it easier to vote.

Mayor Rick Kriseman said he would make the center free for early voting, but Supervisor of Elections, Deborah Clark, said they will not be opening the site early.

"We have no plans to add early voting sites to this election, we have what we fill is a very solid election plan in place that provides easy ballot access for all voters in Pinellas," said Clark.

Clark added that many residents have decided to vote by mail. Nearly 300,000 voters are expected to vote by mail in Pinellas County.  

"That pretty much levels the playing field for all voters and provides equal access to ballots," said Clark.

Click here to request a mail-in ballot.

Voters at Friday's press conference left feeling frustrated by lack of options.

"If a person downtown in a jaguar can go down the street and vote, then someone down here who needs to catch a bus should be given the same opportunity," said Sykes.