Dozens of voters complain about glitch
Herald Tribune STAFF REPORT 08 November 2006
SARASOTA Of all the voting problems in Sarasota County, the largest may prove to be an undervote in the closest race of all: the 13th Congressional contest between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings.
Throughout the day, dozens of people complained that their votes in the 13th Congressional District were not recorded properly. One volunteer election watcher said he heard dozens of such complaints.
Responding to similar complaints that surfaced in early voting that the 13th Congressional District race was not popping up or recording on the electronic ballots Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent had ordered her poll workers to remind voters to carefully check touch-screen ballots, and make sure that their choice in the Jennings-Buchanan race had been properly recorded.
But despite the warning, vote tallies showed there was still a large number of undervotes in the Jennings-Buchanan race with a more than 18,000-vote difference between the total number of ballots cast in Sarasota County and those cast in the 13th race. The race may ultimately be decided by fewer than 400 votes.
Other counties, including Manatee and DeSoto, did not have the same large undervote tallies in the 13th District race.
"Why there's a discrepancy, I couldn't tell you," Dent said. "I heard from a lot of people that didn't care for either candidate."
"I personally undervoted in that race. I don't normally tell people how I vote."
The Sarasota County results were considered critical to Jennings' chances to become the first Democrat in a quarter-century to win the district. Buchanan won handily in Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties, but Jennings held the edge in Sarasota County.
Jennings held a press conference at 2:45 p.m. to warn voters to make sure their ballots were accurately cast.
Other problems tabulating returns plagued the Sarasota County Elections Office.
Final returns were not announced until around midnight, hours after neighboring counties had tabulated their returns.
Some of the delay in the vote tally was caused by poll workers' mistakes, Dent said.
In one North Port precinct, mistakes in how early votes were retrieved from voting machines led to delays when poll workers retrieved vote-storing disks improperly.