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Hillsborough To Resume Tabulating Votes Today (FL)
The Tampa Tribune. November 5, 2008. By JOHN W. ALLMAN

TAMPA - Hillsborough County's general election outcome is still unknown, and likely won't be finalized until late today.

Hillsborough County Canvassing Board Chairman James Dominguez, a county judge, shut down the county supervisor of elections office at 3:27 a.m., citing problems with vote tabulation for 13 early voting machines and problems accessing votes at two outstanding precincts.

The office will resume vote tabulation at noon, Dominguez said.

"Staff has done everything they know how to do," he said. "For the sake of accuracy, I think it would be best."

Dominguez said the few hours respite would hopefully give Premier Election Solutions, the county's contractor for its new optical scan voting equipment, time to come up with a solution to fix the tabulation errors that caused Hillsborough's vote count to fall hours behind.

Officials from Premier Election Solutions and Buddy Johnson, county supervisor of elections, traded blame for the problems Wednesday morning.

Johnson remains in a tight race for his job.

With 377 precincts reporting, Johnson holds a slim 3,654-vote lead over his opponent, Democrat Phyllis Busansky. Tens of thousands votes remain uncounted, however, both from the outstanding precincts and early voting machines.

Dominguez said Wednesday morning it was too early to tell if the supervisor's race may come down to a recount.

"[We've] got to wait until everything is in," he said.

Johnson said that Premier was supposed to issue a statement about what caused the delay. That statement never arrived. At least two Premier employees were on-site at the supervisor's office Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, but no one from the company addressed the media about the situation and Johnson did not make the company's representatives available for comment.

Initially, Johnson pledged support for Premier, a company he researched and recommended that the county purchase equipment. He arrived at his office on Falkenburg Road about 11:30 p.m., after spending much of the night at the University of South Florida, which didn't close its polling place until nearly midnight due to larger-than-expected crowds. At that time, Johnson said the county would "continue to partner" with Premier.

Three hours later, at 2:30 a.m., Johnson placed the bulk of blame on Premier and hinted that he would seek to terminate the county's contract with the company. This is the second election that Premier's equipment has not functioned properly, he said. He accused company officials of being less than honest with his office, but didn't elaborate.

"I will not allow my team to take this on the chin," he said. "I think you can anticipate [Premier] pointing their finger at this office."

Elections officials face several hurdles today in getting the tens of thousands of outstanding votes counted.

First, the issue of uploading early votes must be addressed. As of early Wednesday, only half of the 26 early voting machines had been tabulated. The county received 146,332 early votes, but it is not known how many remain to be counted.

Next, officials must access votes from machines in the outstanding precincts, Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church, a combined precinct, and New Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Tampa. One machine in each precinct was causing problems, Dominguez said.

Then officials also still have to count 6,000 absentee votes received Tuesday which weren't scheduled to be counted until today. Dominguez estimated that counting the votes from the precinct machines and the absentee ballots would take about four hours.

But that was before problems arose with the early voting machines.

Provisional ballots are not scheduled to be addressed until Thursday, Dominguez said.


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