Activists, community members hold #CountEveryVote rally in St. Pete

By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer

PETERSBURG – Florida’s midterm election has turned out to be a calamity for those hoping for a transparent and trustworthy voting process.

More than 10,000 mailed in ballots were rejected due to undetermined “vote-caused error,” and another 10,000 voters’ ballots were denied because their registration card was missing a signature.

Additionally, images have popped up since last Tuesday included in articles referring to uncounted ballots found in a mail facility in Opa-locka, or the box of uncounted provision ballots found behind a polling site by a school teacher.

As of the weekend, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach had thousands of overseas ballots that hadn’t been returned. Officials in these counties shared concerns that they wouldn’t be able to finish their recounts in time for this Thursday’s deadline.

But around the state, activists and citizens were pressing for the recount to go on to determine which candidates – Gillum or DeSantis, Nelson or Scott and Fried or Caldwell – would win after every vote cast had actually been counted.

On Saturday, Nov. 10, community members met at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office to hold a “#CountEveryVote” rally. The rally, in downtown St. Pete, was held in concert with events in Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando and Lauderhill (Broward County).

Carla Bristol shared a sentiment held by many of the over 80 people in attendance at the St. Pete rally. “We’re out here fighting because we believe we won — and we’re fighting for the right for every vote to be counted.”

Although Pinellas had no problems with its count, those in attendance at the rally, including former City Council Member for District 6 Karl Nurse, stood as witness to Florida’s controversial voting process.

“It’s important to understand the context here,” stated Nurse. “There’s a long-standing effort to reduce the votes of the progressive community, and it’s done through voter registration suppression, provisional ballots, closing down voting places. The good news is that the tide, over time, is on our side. But we have to resist all these efforts to not count all the votes.”

Organizer Ashley Green led the rally attendees in a mini-march throughout the neighborhood’s streets, as drivers honked their horns in support of those advocating for the recount.

Rally attendee Dan Smith shared, “I’m against voter suppression, and that’s what’s happening – they’re holding back in other counties, they sound like they’re hiding votes.”

Charles, a long-time St. Pete resident and Democrat, asserted, “This is very, very important. We need to get a representative government. Gillum is going to be our best chance.”

The rally was organized by members of the Win Justice coalition — including, SEIU FL, Planned Parenthood, Florida Immigrant Coalition Votes, Organize Florida, New Florida Majority, and Color of Change PAC, as well as Dream Defenders, Indivisible FL-13, Women’s March St. Pete Pinellas, March for Our Lives, the League of Women Voters, and others.

The Pinellas County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council’s Jeffery Copeland said on that day he wanted to speak on behalf of those who had been overlooked and miscounted.

“At the end of the day, this is a very important election. I tell people all the time it’s not because Andrew is a black man; it’s about democracy. It’s about the votes that have not been counted,” Copeland said, adding that if the pressure is kept on, “we will be heard.”

Seventeen-year-old Kai Tomalin, who worked with March for Our Lives and interned with the Gillum campaign, declared, “If we insist that this nation works in the way it was designed to work, we will make sure that this truly is the greatest nation on the planet.

“This nation was founded on one core principal above all else,” the young activist added, “that we will stand up for what we believe in, no matter what the odds or the consequences.”

Before the final march around the block, Green infused the crowd with hope.

“We know that a people united will never be defeated, and we choose to be more united than our opposition.”

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com.

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