Election problems continue in Hillsborough

11/05/08 Seán Kinane
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Several Hillsborough County races, including Supervisor of Elections, are too close to call based on the number of ballots still to be tallied. Six thousand absentee ballots are being counted today, but as many as 80,000 early votes won’t be tallied until tomorrow.

Hillsborough County had 13 early voting locations and each one of those had two optical scan machines that read and recorded votes. But the results from half of those machines have still not been tallied. That process will begin Wednesday evening at the earliest and Judge James Dominguez, one of the three members of the canvassing board, predicted it would take about 10 hours.

In Hillsborough, 146,000 early ballots were cast, which means as many as 80,000 of them are left to be counted.

Premier Election Solutions is the company from which Hillsborough County purchased its optical scan system. Premier acknowledged in a statement today that “an issue occurred involving upload of results from memory cards to the election management server.” A similar problem is occurring with three precincts that still have not been counted. In addition, about 6,000 absentee ballots that arrived Tuesday were being counted throughout the day on Wednesday, Judge Dominguez said.

An unknown number of provisional ballots will be counted beginning Thursday evening, Dominguez said. The race between incumbent Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson, a Republican, and Democrat Phyllis Busansky is separated by less than 3,700 votes, but tens of thousands of ballots have yet to be added to that tally. In the race for County Commission, Democrat Kevin Beckner leads by 20,000 over incumbent Republican Brian Blair. For School Board, incumbent Carol Kurdell leads challenger Stephen Gorham by 15,000. Mitch Kates is Beckner’s campaign manager and advises Gorham as well.

State election law allows people to vote on a normal ballot in the precinct in which they reside, even if they are not registered in that precinct, as long as they are registered in Florida. As WMNF reported Tuesday night, more than 100 people were in line to vote at the USF Tampa campus when polls closed at 7 p.m.; it took several hours for them to finish voting. But Pat Kemp, Vice Chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee said that because of inefficiencies of the polling set-up, many of them were forced to vote provisional ballots.

Skip Parrish is a volunteer computer observer for the Democratic Party and is concerned that three employees of Premier Election Solutions in the room where the ballots were being counted.

WMNF made multiple requests of the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office to find out how many provisional ballots had been cast in the county and at USF, but we received no response. The county’s vote totals will not be officially certified until next week, which is when overseas absentee ballots will be tallied.

In an update to that story, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office has just updated their election tallies by adding in the results of about ten thousand more ballots.

About 6,000 of those are the absentee ballots that were being counted throughout the day. The remaining ballots came from the three precincts that had not been tallied last night.

Buddy Johnson now leads Phyllis Busansky by 4900 votes, Kevin Beckner leads Brian Blair by more than 19,000 votes and Carol Kurdell still leads Stephen Gorham by 15,000 votes.

512,000 ballots were cast in the county, which means that about 80,000 remain to be tallied.

Primary day vote counting problems

Election Day voting issues

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