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Hillsborough results frozen, tens of thousands still uncounted (FL)
10 Connects News. November 5, 2008. By Grayson Kamm

Tampa, Florida - Election workers are returning to their posts Wednesday morning to try and tackle a computer problem that's left results frozen in place and tens of thousands of votes uncounted in Hillsborough County.

The ballots that haven't been tallied make up a substantial percentage of all the votes cast in the county, and leave the race for Supervisor of Elections temporarily locked in a near-tie.

They won't be counted until late Wednesday afternoon at the earliest, according to Judge James Dominguez, a member of the canvassing board that oversees the vote-counting.

"Every vote is gonna be counted," Dominguez said. "There's a paper trail. There's another way to do it. There are other processing machines that can be used, and so every vote is going to be counted."

Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson said half of Hillsborough County's early voting machines won't transmit their information to his office's computer system. There are 13 faulty machines, Johnson said.

Elections workers are arriving to try troubleshooting those machines again. If they can't make the two computer systems communicate with each other, elections workers may start re-scanning the paper backup ballots assigned to each of those machines.

There are paper backup ballots for every one of the uncounted voters, so every vote will be counted, one way or another. The total number of uncounted ballots is in the tens of thousands, but Johnson says his staff doesn't know exactly how many are in the 13 problem machines.

Altogether, around 147,000 people voted early in Hillsborough County, Johnson said.

The canvassing board sent everyone home at around 3:30 a.m. on the morning after Election Day, saying the staff and observers were too tired to continue working.

"It was probably more appropriate at that point to just shut it down, give these folks a chance to catch their breath, come back today, and then clean up what needs to be cleaned up," Dominguez said.

This is not the only Election Day problem to crop up in Hillsborough County.

- Optical scanners at a handful of precincts didn't work, and ballots had to be set aside and added up later.

- At one polling place in Northdale, a voter says several dozen people left the precinct after only getting one page of a two-page ballot.

- Voters waited up to four hours to cast ballots at a small, understaffed precinct on the University of South Florida campus.

Johnson blames Premier Election Systems for the voting machine problems. Johnson bought the county's new optical scan machines from Premier.

Judge Dominguez said Johnson addressed his staff before they went home early Wednesday, cursing the machines and the company that built them. Hours later, Dominguez said, "I can assure you that he is going to take whatever legal steps are necessary to make sure that Hillsborough County, in fact, gets the product that they paid for."

Coincidentally, one of the closest races frozen in place is the fight for Supervisor of Elections. Buddy Johnson and his challenger Phyllis Busansky are essentially tied, with Johnson leading by just a few thousand votes. Again, there are still tens of thousands votes waiting to be counted.

Busansky had to wrap up her watch party on Tuesday night when it got late and the restaurant that was hosting her gathering closed for the night. Her campaign manager says she'll issue a statement about the delay sometime Wednesday morning.


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