31 October 2008

Four Steps to Voting in Pinellas County on Election Day

Election Day is just a few days away!

With 2008 being a year we elect a new President of the United States as well as a sizeable number of state and local officials, not to mention the amendments to the Florida Constitution. As you probably know, Florida allows early voting or voting absentee by mail because it helps alleviate congestion at the polls on Election Day.

Now we got Election Day – 4 November 2008 – just around the corner I imagine the polls will be crowded with people like you and I exercising our rights as an American citizen: The right to vote. In Pinellas County there are four steps to the voting process and you can do your part to make the voting experience go smooth for you.

Most important step:

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 ID with you is the best – 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, 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 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 your ID and prove that your address is correct. If everything is OK then you will be directed to sign the precinct register in the space provided. After that the poll worker will give you a yellow ticket to take to Step 2.

Step 2: This is where you will receive your ballot. On the yellow ticket you received in Step 1, check to see that everything is accurate. If so, sign the yellow ticket in the space provided and fill in the oval. Hand in the ticket to the poll worker who will exchange it for your ballot, a black ballpoint pen and a secrecy envelope. Proceed with all three items to Step 3.

Step 3: Step on over to any one of the 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.

Step 4: This is the optical scanner machine where you will feed in your ballot. A poll worker 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 secrecy envelope and the black ballpoint pen you were given 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. Now you have completed the Pinellas County Four-Step and you can be proud of yourself!

20 October 2008

How About Them Rays!

The year was 1998. The place was Tropicana Field, right here in St. Petersburg.

I was just ready to get my second Associate in Science degree in Legal Assisting. I had all the courses completed and I was taking an extra Legal Assisting related class on a non-credit basis to round out my schedule now that I was on my way to graduation.

Meanwhile, on a sunny day in St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Rays – which was formerly known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays – began their inaugural season at Tropicana Field. While it was sunny outside, it was a cool 72 degrees inside Tropicana Field, which would make for a great game of baseball. The Rays took on the Detroit Tigers on 31 March 1998 before a sellout crowd of 45,369.

The first ten years of the Rays were anything but. We were basically the laughing stock of the American League East: Finishing last in the season, practically low attendance at Tropicana Field (save for a very miniscule number of near-sellout games), and more losses than wins season after season, not to mention fan dissatisfaction when Vince Naimoli was at the ownership helm.

Ten years later. The year is 2008.

Instead of being the laughing stock of the American League East, our Rays made a complete turnaround. We were winning more games than ever this season and we have had many sellout games. In fact, more than a handful of next to sellout games than past seasons.

We made it to the American League Divisional Series and we managed to beat the Chicago White Sox. We made it to the American League Championship Series and we managed to beat the Boston Red Sox – after seven games. After all, Boston was not going to let go of their defending World Series champion title without a fight. Until the very end at the seventh game on Sunday, 19 October 2008.

Now we made it. The Tampa Bay Rays – long known as the laughing stock of the American League East – is now going to the World Series!

You got that right. The Rays going to the World Series for the first time! I can’t believe it before my own eyes: I was watching Game 7 of the American League Championship Series at home on my widescreen HDTV when – in the top of the 9th Inning – the Red Sox’s Jed Lowrie hit a ground ball to Rays Second Baseman Akinori Iwamura. Once Akinori (or “Aki” for short) stepped on 2nd Base to make that final out history was being made right in front of my eyes on TV. Believe me, here is one Rays fan that was very excited!

There are plenty of things I feel that made the World Series possible for the Tampa Bay Rays. One important item of interest was the day when the word “Devil” was dropped from our team’s name and the uniform and logo was changed. Remember when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the laughing stock of the NFL for years? They changed their uniform and got rid of that “Bucco Bruce” logo that used to be part of the Buccaneers since 1977. And the reward for the Buccaneers? The Bucs are the 2003 Super Bowl champions!

There are more things I feel too that played an important role in the Rays going from the worst to the first. First, the change in managers when Joe Maddon was named the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays back in December 2005 replacing Lou Piniella. Second, when Stuart Sternberg bought into the Rays’ ownership group in 2004 he took a faltering team and basically rebuilt it from the ground up including improvements to Tropicana Field as well as revitalizing the fan experience.

2006 was really the turnaround year for the Rays when attendance began to increase resulting in sellout crowds. 2006 also saw the introduction of the “cowbell” which we Rays fans know by heart now.

Then to 2008 and that (almost!) championship season! The Rays did anything and everything to bring in the crowds to Tropicana Field, especially on Saturdays throughout the regular 2008 Baseball season when the Rays hosted a concert series when we had a home game. The Rays brought in the hottest acts in town including Latin superstar Gilberto Santa Rosa, among other things.

Now we have a baseball team right here in St. Petersburg – a Tampa Bay Rays we can now be proud of. And with the World Series being played right here in St. Petersburg (Games 1 and 2 and possible Games 6 and 7), St. Petersburg has finally earned its place on the map. Just don’t forget, the Tampa Bay Rays play right here in St. Petersburg at Tropicana Field, on the corner of Interstate 275 and its Exit 22, Interstate 175. If any announcer on TV says that the Rays are from Tampa, that announcer did not get a lesson in geography yet.

St. Petersburg celebrates the Rays!

And one more item: Tropicana Field is a great stadium for baseball. Why move to another venue when Tropicana Field is just good enough? Downtown St. Petersburg is a great place for baseball, and Tropicana Field is the perfect place for it.

On another note: I know that tickets for the 2008 World Series at Tropicana Field are hot commodities and practically the only way is to either go on to StubHub.com and purchase tickets (but be prepared to pay a steep premium!) or be one of the lucky few to be selected to purchase tickets from the Rays if you entered your name for the postseason ticket opportunity. If you do plan on going to any game of the 2008 World Series at Tropicana Field, I would like to know if you were successful in getting tickets at a reasonable price.

I personally congratulate the Tampa Bay Rays for the best season - that championship season - ever in 2008!