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Johnson on defensive after slow election  (FL)

My Fox Tampa Bay    27 August 2008

TAMPA Only 5 percent of Hillsborough County voters made it to the polls on Tuesday, yet results were delayed for hours.

That left Hillsborough Election Supervisor Buddy Johnson himself facing reelection in November under fire from critics.

Johnson insisted Wednesday it was a near-flawless election, but you could clearly see the stress building Tuesday night after brand new optical scan voting machines proved by the Premier company counted all the votes just fine, but refused to post returns to the supervisor of elections web site.

"I expect them to fix this issue. We paid a lot of money. I expect them to fix it," said Johnson as the returns came in Tuesday evening.

Premier did fix it, and the returns showed up in the website by about 1:30 in the morning. Johnson says the delay had nothing to do with his management of the department or any error on the part of his staff.

"This isn't a glitch on the part of the Hillsborough County elections office," he said.

Johnson has been under fire because of a series of slow election nights, and this latest tabulation delay quickly became a political football in what's already a bitter race for Johnson's reelection

"People were calling me because they had totally lost confidence in Buddy," offered Phyllis Busansky who is challenging Johnson in November.

She says she went to the election's office to see for herself

"I was appalled at what I saw when I arrived. Buddy was clearly confused - giving one explanation and then a half hour later giving another. He was not being honest but rather trying to minimize the problems. So once again, we are embarrassed by his poor performance." She said. "If it can't be done right with this trickle of voters, what in the world will happen with thousands and thousands of people? It terrifies me."

Johnson says the problems Tuesday are now fixed and he's absolutely confident about November.

Given a copy of a press release sent out by the Busansky campaign that called his performance "embarrassing," Johnson declined to respond to the charge.

Late Wednesday, Premier - the maker of the voting machines - came to Johnson's defense. It took the blame for the problems and said it's fixing what went wrong.

Hillsborough County wasn't the only elections office burned by the system. Sarasota County also uses it, and had problems. It didn't finish its vote tally until Wednesday.

Premier says it's replacing scanning machines that glitched while counting absentee ballots.

Supervisor Kathy Dent told FOX 13 she is confident things will go well in November, and is happy with the support she's getting from Premier.

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