SOUTH VENICE — If all politics are local, locally, there remains some consternation.

Democratic and Republican volunteers outside the R.L. Anderson Administrative Center in South Venice on Thursday afternoon had few nice words about one-another.

And they threw in a few barbs about alleged harassment.

Not all of them spoke poorly about their fellow Sarasota County residents. A few praised everybody working to get the vote out and democracy on as early voting continued through Sunday — and Election Day set for Tuesday.

GOP volunteer Jeff Staple stood along Tamiami Trail with a flag and hat for President Donald Trump.

Staple, a Venice resident, said some Democratic volunteers were kind.

“It depends on the people that are there. Some are very friendly; some are not. Just like in any population,” Staple said.

Democratic volunteer Rich Rinko stood outside a tent and held a flag supporting Joe Biden.

Rinko, a Venice resident, said there wasn’t much conversation between the groups. If someone needed water, he said, he’d quickly offer it.

“But they brought their own,” he said.

As cars drove in, three GOP volunteers waved and offered Republican voting guides while a Democratic volunteer held a Biden-Harris sign over her head.

The GOP volunteers were not pleased with what they deemed interference from Democratic Party volunteers.

They claimed Democratic volunteers on Wednesday had been calling the Sarasota County Clerk’s Office and saying the GOP was breaking the law and spoke to drivers coming in and gave away voting guides.

“But it’s not illegal,” Osprey resident Julie Brady said as she stood with Venice residents Denise Wuetcher and Barbara Vaughn. “They are trying to slow us down and distract us from our volunteering.”

For Rinko, standing 30 yards away, it was about being a part of the process quietly.

“They’re more verbal; we just keep to ourselves,” he said, noting he tries not to engage with anyone who says anything negative toward him.

“Everybody has a right to vote and I respect their right to vote, regardless of who they are voting for,” he said.

Rinko said he was a former Republican who officially switched parties in 2016, but noted he had voted for President Barack Obama along with Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, calling himself a fiscal conservative who appreciates the social programs the Democratic Party supports.

Staple said President Donald Trump is not a perfect person but he respects Trump’s position on issues.

“This is a contest on America and freedom for everyone,” Staple said.

He said he has “tremendous respect for Democrats.”

“I believe good people may disagree on how you get there, but good people agree on objectives,” Staple said. “If you believe in this country, if you believe in freedom, if you believe in the Bill of Rights, the Constitution of the United States ... and you’re not an extremist of some kind, extreme left of extreme right, I respect you.”

By the numbers

As of Friday evening, 61.5% of votes have been cast in Sarasota County with 133,033 through vote-by-mail and 76,173 through early voting.

A total of 58,216 Democrats had voted by mail while another 16,195 took part in early voting; a total of 46,771 Republicans had voted by mail while another 42,718 took part in early voting.

In the “other” category, 28,046 had voted by mail while 17,261 took part in early voting.


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