Castor, state senators ask officials to look into Hillsborough vote problems
TAMPA -- Congresswoman Kathy Castor has joined two Democratic state senators in asking state and federal officials to look into voting problems in Hillsborough County, where a final tally of votes has not been determined two days after the election.
Castor, D-Tampa, wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice today, saying that Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson "has not met his legal responsibilities."
"It is imperative that all votes are counted accurately and quickly," Castor wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Christopher Coates, chief of the Justice Department's Voting Section. "To that end, I respectfully request you carefully review the situation in Hillsborough County and dispatch personnel to monitor and resolve these critical issues."
Late this afternoon, Justice Department spokesman Scot Montrey told Bay Buzz, "We are aware of and reviewing the situation in Hillsborough County."
Montrey declined to comment further.
Two Democratic state senators asked Gov. Charlie Crist to look into vote counting problems.
Sens. Charlie Justice and Arthenia Joyner wrote to Crist today, saying they were concerned about a number of problems in Hillsborough.
"The time has come for you to take a direct role in resolving the issues regarding election results from the 2008 general elections. Per statute, there is a finite amount of time to get the unofficial results to the state elections office, and we are very concerned that if the situation continues on its current path, many votes will be left unaccounted for," the senators wrote.
In an interview, Crist, who's in St. Petersburg, said he wasn't yet aware of the letter. But he said this: "I certainly understand their concern and I share it ... In most every single county in our state we had a very smooth, good election. I complimented our secretary of state (Kurt Browning) ... I haven't really gone down into the nuts and bolts of what's going on in Hillsborough County other than the fact that the votes have yet to be completed, and it's unfortunate."
Senators cited conflicting accounts from Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson and elections systems vendor Premier Election Systems about the cause of problems that have delayed the counting of about 80,000 early votes. That counting resumed this morning. They also cited insufficient voting booths at some precincts and conflict-of-interest issues, given that Johnson is running for re-election against Phyllis Busansky.
Castor mentioned Election Day problems that included long lines at the University of South Florida, where final votes were cast after 11 p.m. She also said that two precincts at the same location "caused confusion, delays and possible disenfranchisement of voters in a largely African-American area."
Jennifer Liberto, Steve Bousquet and Kevin Graham