President Obama to speak in Ybor City Thursday

"The intent is to encourage more people to vote, that's why we do stuff like this," said the mayor. "It doesn't matter what party you belong to. The idea is to get more people to participate, and any hurdle that you put in the way of participation to me is un-American."

Four years ago, then-Governor Charlie Crist extended early voting hours based on demands of some Supervisor of Elections officers who saw long long lines at the polls. That move angered some Republicans, and Mayor Buckhorn says he doesn't get it.

"That seems to be the history on that [Republican] side of the equation, to tamp down participation, particularly in minority communities."

Former Iowa Governor Chet Culver said there was "obviously a real difference in opinion between Democrats and Republicans" about how to make the vote more accessible. "We want to do everything we can to make it easier to vote so that people have options, and that's not necessarily the case on the other side of the aisle."

CL asked the former leader of the Hawkeye State if he thought it was fair that his state always begins the presidential voting calendar every four years with its first-in-the-nation caucuses. The fact that Iowa and New Hampshire have for 40 years led the nation in voting has alienated wide swaths of the country, including Florida, where the state legislature the past two election cycles has broken the rules of both the Republican and Democratic parties by voting to move the state's primary to January so that Florida can have more impact on the national race.

Culver was unrepentant.

"We have really come up with a fair way since 1972 to give every candidate from both sides of the aisle a chance to get out there and make a name for themselves," Culver began. Noting that Iowa is one of the few states that still uses caucuses and not primaries to vote for presidential candidates, he said that one reason why Iowa began voting by caucus in 1972 was that "we still had this neighbor-to-neighbor, precinct-to-precinct system, which allows for 2,100 different meeting places on one night for Democrats and Republicans to go caucus for the candidate of their choice."

Perhaps trying to make this reporter feel better, Culver enthused that the "great news is Florida couldn't be more important today in the presidential selection process."

Duly noted, governor. Duly noted.

Before HB 1355 was passed in 2011, early voting would have begun today in Florida, 15 days before Election Day.

But one of the controversial provisions of that controversial elections bill reduced the days of early voting, meaning the first day when registered voters can go to the polls and fill out a ballot is this coming Saturday.

However, Obama For America officials have been encouraging voters to go to Supervisor of Elections offices throughout the state to request an absentee ballot and fill it out then, which was the raison d'être behind the "Gotta Vote" bus tour that made stops throughout the Bay area on Monday.

It was also where tickets were distributed for President Obama's next appearance in the Bay area: Thursday morning at Centennial Park in Ybor City (doors to the park will open at 7 a.m.).

Present at the "Gotta Vote" bus event at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square in Tampa today were former Iowa Governor Chet Culver, model Chanel Iman and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who reflected on the fact that early voting won't begin until this Saturday.

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