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Sign warns: 'Check your chads'

Election officials caution St. Petersburg voters to make sure all holes are properly punched before they put their ballot in the box.

By BRYAN GILMER and LEONORA LaPETER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The billboard on First Avenue S advises: "St. Pete voters: Check your chads."

Election officials are hoping the extra caution they used a month ago in the city primary will see them through today's election.

They say the public service announcement is good advice, that voters should make sure all the holes are properly punched before they drop their ballot into the box.

The maligned punch card ballots seemed to work fine last month, but voters had a maximum of two holes to punch.

This time, they will have 18: the mayor's race between Kathleen Ford and Rick Baker, five City Council races (all city voters vote in all district races), 10 proposed amendments to the city charter, and two referendums about the lease of city-owned land to schools. Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"The changes we implemented for the Feb. 27 primary election were very effective and we're going to use those same procedures," said Deborah Clark, Pinellas County supervisor of elections.

Those changes include large colored signs at the voting machines reminding voters to ask for another ballot if they make a mistake.

As the candidates for city office made their last-minute campaign push Monday, City Clerk Jane Brown declined to predict how many of the city's voters will turn out.

But if history is a guide, more of the city's 145,730 registered voters should go to the polls today than the 25 percent who did a month ago.

In the 1997 mayoral election, 35 percent voted, while 53 percent voted in 1993.

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