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Voter IDs bring odd missive

The county explains why the new cards still bear the signature of the elections supervisor who died in May.

By ROSALIND HELDERMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


Deborah Clark will serve as Pinellas County's supervisor of elections until at least January, but county residents won't be carrying her name around in their wallets on voter registration cards.

The county is sending new identification cards to all of the county's 588,000 registered voters. All bear the name and signature of Clark's predecessor and good friend Dorothy Ruggles, who died of cancer May 16.

"If we had to reprint all those cards, it'd be a lot of money," said Joan Brock, deputy administrator of the supervisor of elections office.

The office ordered the materials months ago, before anyone realized how serious Ms. Ruggles' illness was. The cards, envelopes and postage for the project cost $342,000, Brock said. Reprinting them would cost taxpayers that amount again, she said. "It would take time to reprint them all, and we need to get these out," Brock said.

Clearwater and Tarpon Springs have city elections in July. While voters can use any picture and signature ID to vote, the voting cards can help direct residents to their proper district and precinct. The cards also contain important voting information, including directions for absentee voting.

This is the first time the elections office has blanketed the county with new registration cards since 1992. The effort was required after voters narrowly approved a referendum in November creating new County Commission districts.

Voters now will elect three at-large commissioners and four from single-member districts.

The new cards are accompanied by a slip of paper explaining that Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Clark to serve out the remainder of Ms. Ruggles' four-year term, which ends in January.

Clark is running for election to the position but faces opposition from fellow Republican Patricia "Pat" Baker.

According to Brock, the office has been printing some labels bearing Clark's name, but will not change over all of its stationery until the next permanent supervisor is elected.

- Times staff writer Edie Gross contributed to this report.

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