Technical glitch tells Pinellas voters Election Day is Wednesday

11/06/12 Janelle Irwin
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Throughout the Tampa Bay area there have been several minor problems at polling places reported Tuesday ranging from sending people to the wrong precinct to telling voters Election Day is tomorrow.

Hundreds of voters received robo-calls from the Pinellas County elections office this morning that told them Election Day was tomorrow. Linda Walburn, a spokesperson for the office, said the voters were later called back with accurate voting information.

In a conference call this morning, a group Election Watch said some voters in parts of New Tampa were directed to the wrong precinct. Barbara Arnwine is the executive director of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“A lot of polling places that are open are re-directing voters to another precinct and having them vote a provisional ballot. Remember the law in Florida – Florida is a correct precinct voting state. So, when you’re sent to a wrong precinct to vote and vote a provisional ballot there’s a huge problem about whether or not it will be counted.”

In previous elections, two precincts in New Tampa voted at the same polling location. This year the two precincts are split up. Dara Lindenbaum is associate council for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a volunteer with Election Watch. She said voters should insist that poll workers get them adequate information about where they are supposed to vote.

“If somebody is being told they’re at the wrong precinct, they should make sure and ask them to tell them exactly what their right polling location is. If they just see a sign that that says this polling location is closed, they should make sure that it’s for them and not, maybe, for somebody else.”

But that’s been a problem today because the Hillsborough elections office is having phone troubles. That means poll workers at the precincts at times have been unable to reach the supervisor’s office to get information about voter registration and precinct locations. Travis Abercrombie is a spokesperson for the Supervisor of Elections office.

“The phone lines as I understand, are now operational and we’re working with our provider for a permanent solution. It’s important to note that voting is still taking place at all 272 polling locations throughout the county and all registered voters who are in line by 7 p.m. tonight will still have the opportunity to vote.”

If a person is at the wrong precinct and poll workers are unable to direct them to the right one, they might be asked to cast a provisional ballot. Election Watch’s Lindenbaum said voters should make every effort to avoid that.

“If somebody goes to a polling location and they’re told that they need to vote a provisional ballot, before they vote that provisional ballot they should either ask the poll work to make absolute sure that they’re in the right polling location and if the poll worker doesn’t have the capability to do that, they can call the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline and we can look it up for them or they can go directly to the Supervisor’s website. What’s really important is that they check to make sure before they vote a provisional ballot.”

A south St. Petersburg polling place was reported having problems scanning ballots. Linda Walburn, spokesperson for the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office said it did cause a little bit of a backup, but the problem was quickly resolved.

According to Election Watch there have been problems reported nationwide. In Ohio many ballot scanners and voting machines aren’t working and it’s causing lines to back up. And in Milwaukee some lines are 300 people deep because polling places are understaffed and only have one working machine. But Bob Edgar, president of the group Common Cause, said there are some positive stories too.

“In the wake of storm many first responders from Pennsylvania rushed to New York and New Jersey to help save lives and help restore power. The state of Pennsylvania has issued a special directive which would allow these voters to cast absentee ballots.”

WMNF has received other reports from listeners about possible voting problems. An elderly Latina woman in East Tampa who doesn’t speak English told her family that her ballot was put in a separate envelope after a poll worker claimed she had already voted. We were unable to independently verify that information.

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