New Voter in Pinellas County: Start Here
Congratulations! You’ve decided to help make democracy work. Now what?
We know voting can be overwhelming and confusing. This step-by-step guide will help you navigate voting in Pinellas County, from registering as a voter to casting your ballot and everything in between.
Before you can register to vote in Florida, you need to determine if you’re eligible to vote. To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must be a U.S. citizen
- You must be a legal resident of the state of Florida and a resident of the county in which you’re registering to vote
- You must be at least 16 years old to pre-register or 18 years old or older to register
- You cannot have been adjudicated as mentally incapacitated with regards to voting in Florida
- You must be able to affirm that you have either not been convicted of a felony or that your voting rights have been restored. Florida voters passed the Voting Rights Restoration amendment to the Florida Constitution in 2018 (“Amendment 4”). Under this amendment, anyone who has been convicted of a felony (except for murder or felony sex offenses) has their voting rights automatically restored once they have completed all terms of their sentence. “All terms of sentence” currently includes incarceration, parole, probation and any outstanding restitution, fines, or fees that were part of the sentence. This issue is currently under ongoing litigation and may change. There may be pathways available for you to become eligible! If you have questions about your eligibility or need help resolving fines and fees, you can contact the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition at 1-877-698-6830 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Note, if you have a felony conviction for murder or a felony sex offense, your voting rights can only be restored by the governor through the clemency process.
If you meet all of these conditions, then great—you’re eligible to register to vote!
In the state of Florida, you can register to vote in three ways: online, by mail and in person. We’ll walk you through each method so you can determine which one will be most convenient for you.
The Deadline to Register to Vote
The last day you can register to vote in an election is 29 days before that election. This year, those dates are:
- 2021 Municipal Election: February 8
- 2021 Primary Election: July 26
- 2021 Municipal General Election: October 4
Don’t delay! The elections office makes no exceptions here, so you should register as soon as possible. Learn more in our Guide to Voter Registration in Florida.
What You Need to Know About Party Affiliation
Florida is a closed primary state, which means only those voters who are registered members of a political party will be able to vote in the primary elections for partisan races. (In the general election, you’ll have the chance to vote in all races regardless of your political affiliation.)
However, if you decide not to register as a member of a party, you can still cast your primary election ballot in non-partisan races as well as most ballot issues. In fact, contests for non-partisan seats such as school board and judicial races are often decided during the primary, which is why you should vote in the primary election even if you’re not affiliated with a political party.
Want more information before deciding whether to register with a political party? Learn more about the history, leadership, platform and policy positions of the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green and Constitution parties. The Division of Elections has a complete list of the political parties registered in Florida. (Note: “NPA” means “no party affiliation”; “IND” means “Independence Party of Florida.” They are not interchangeable.)
If you decide to register with a political party or that you want to change your party affiliation, all you have to do is update your voter record. You can do this by going to registertovoteflorida.gov or you can print out this form, fill it out and drop it off or send it by mail to one of the three Supervisor of Elections offices in Pinellas County. The deadline to update your party affiliation is 29 days before the primary election.
Your first stop: right here! Ahead of each election, we’ll survey the candidates who will appear on your ballot so we can find out their positions on the issues affecting our community, and we’ll post that information in our nonpartisan election guide to make it as simple as possible for you.
We’ll also include our analyses of the constitutional amendments — as well as any ballot initiatives like county referendums and charter amendments — that’ll appear on the ballot.
You can also attend the candidate forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters throughout the election season. At most of these forums, you’ll have the chance to submit questions so you can hear what the candidates have to say on the issues that matter most to you.
You can also see how past candidates have answered our surveys and read our analyses of past ballot measures by checking out our archives.
Now you’re registered to vote AND you’re well-informed about the candidates and issues—you are officially ready to cast your ballot!
In the state of Florida, you have three options when it comes to casting your ballot: voting by mail, early voting and voting in person on Election Day. We’ll explain what’s involved with each option so you can make the decision that works best for you.
Voting By Mail
Vote-by-mail ballots (formerly known as “absentee ballots”) are available to all Pinellas County residents, regardless of where they are located on Election Day. You don’t need a specific reason or excuse to sign up to vote by mail, it is available to all registered voters. These are regular ballots that are just like voting in person, but you can do it from home.
A mail ballot is sent to your home along with a secrecy sleeve and a return envelope about 40 days before the election. You’ll fill it out, place it in the secrecy sleeve and return envelope, sign the exterior of the envelope, and then drop it in the mail at least 2-3 weeks before Election Day. We recommend putting it in the mail as early as possible so you don’t risk delivery delays due to increased mail volume ahead of elections. Your mail ballot MUST arrive at the Supervisor of Elections by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
You can also drop your mail ballot off in person. Mail ballots can only be dropped off in secure ballot drop boxes at designated locations. You can bring your ballot to any one of the three Supervisor of Election offices.
- Advantages: you’ll have plenty of time to study your ballot and fill it out in the comfort of your own home; you don’t have to wait in line at a polling place or even leave your home (so it's the lowest risk for COVID-19); you can vote on your own time; you can track your ballot online; you’re not required to show ID in order to cast your mail ballot; you can always change your mind and vote in person instead at Early Voting or on Election Day.
- Possible challenges: some people forget to sign their mail ballot envelope, which is a main reason why mail ballots are not counted; if you put your mail ballot in the mail too late, it may arrive after 7 p.m. on Election Day, at which point your ballot will not be counted; if your signature on file doesn't match your signature on the ballot envelope, the Supervisor of Elections will contact you and you will have to resolve it by 5 p.m. on the Thursday after Election Day so that your ballot can be counted.
You can request a vote-by-mail ballot in one of five ways:
- Online: Filling out this form
- Email: MailBallotRequests@VotePinellas.com
- Phone: 727-464-VOTE (8683)
- Mail: Supervisor of Elections, 13001 Starkey Rd., Largo, FL 33773
- In person: At one of the three Supervisor of Elections offices
Please provide your phone number and/or email address so that the Supervisor of Elections can contact you if there is a problem.
Mail ballots are not forwardable. It is important to keep the address on your voter registration file up to date by calling the Supervisor of Elections at 727-464-VOTE (8683).
The signature you used when filling out your voter registration form is compared with the signature you put on the outside envelope of your mail ballot. If you registered to vote online, the signature on your Florida driver license or ID is the signature on file. It’s a good idea to update your signature on file every few years, as your signature can change over time. To do that, print out this form and fill it out, then send it by mail or drop it off at one of the three Supervisor of Election offices.
Learn more about voting by mail in Pinellas County.
You can vote in person during Early Voting! Early voting dates for the 2021 Municipal Election have not been announced yet. When early voting is offered, Early voting will be available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at each of the three Supervisor of Elections offices (315 Court St. in Clearwater; 13001 Starkey Rd. in Largo; 501 First Ave. N. in St. Petersburg) and any other announced locations.
- Advantages: it is open on weekends; lines are likely to be shorter than on Election Day (so it is lower risk for COVID-19); you can go to any early voting location in Pinellas County regardless of where in the county you live
- Possible challenges: you’ll need to show valid photo and signature identification; a lengthy ballot could be difficult for some to manage in the voting booth and result in longer wait times; early voting locations may not be as conveniently located as your local polling place
You can use one ID with both your photo and signature or two different forms of acceptable ID (one with your photo and one with your signature). If you are unable to provide photo and signature ID, you can still vote, but you will have to vote a provisional ballot. If you vote a provisional ballot, the signature on your provisional ballot will be compared to the signature the Supervisor of Elections has on file for you. The poll workers will give you instructions about if/how you need to follow up to make sure your ballot can be counted.
Voting on Election Day
You can vote in person at your local polling place on Election Day! The 2021 municipal election will be held on Tuesday, March 9. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you are in line by 7 p.m., you have a right to vote.
This online tool will help you find your polling place. Please be sure to check your polling place on or immediately before Election Day, because sometimes there are last-minute changes.
- Advantage: your polling place is likely to be close to your home
- Possible challenges: you’ll need to show valid photo and signature identification; there may be long lines; a lengthy ballot could be difficult for some to manage in the voting booth; the 12-hour window on Election Day may not be convenient for you
It’s important that you vote in the correct precinct for your current residence! Otherwise your vote may be invalid.
If you’re a registered Florida voter and you recently moved within or to Pinellas County, you can update your address at your NEW polling location on Election Day, but we recommend that you call the Supervisor of Elections office at 727-464-VOTE (8683) to update your address in advance.
If you are registered to vote in Florida and you are voting in the correct precinct for your current residence, you should not leave the polls without voting! If there is a problem with your registration or your ID, you can still vote, but you may have to vote a provisional ballot. If you vote a provisional ballot, the poll workers will give you instructions about if/how you need to follow up to make sure it can be counted. Any problems with your ballot need to be fixed by 5 p.m. on the Thursday after Election Day.