Count of early voting resumes, about 80,000 ballots left
TAMPA -- At 9:30 a.m., the recounting of 80,000 early votes began at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office.
About two dozen employees fed stacks of ballots into scanners in a process that should take about 12 hours, said Kevin White, a member of the county's canvassing board.
"I'm disappointed we're still here," said White, who was missing a commission meeting to stand watch over the recount. "I wish we had done the tabulations of the early vote on Saturday rather than waiting until Election Day."
He expressed disappointment with the vendor of the optical scan machines, Premier. He said there has been little discussion with officials from the company in accepting blame or explaining why the scan machines haven't worked.
White said he didn't know why the supervisor, Buddy Johnson, chose to wait, but he said had heard there were concerns about leaks that would have released results before polls closed. Johnson wasn't at the office. Kathy Harris, the legal counsel for the elections office, said Johnson was giving a radio interview.
Reporters watched the recount from an adjacent room separated by glass. One employee for each scanner machine fed ballots, one at a time, into the machine. There were 24 machines, but White said another room with about 16 machines was being set up for more counting.
The ballots were brought into the room about 9:15 a.m. They were stored in dozens of boxes, which were the size of the type used for sheet cakes. A bar code was on each one. White said he didn't know how these boxes were secured to make sure they were the same ballots that weren't counted. He said they were stored in locked bins before getting unloaded, but said he didn't know what precautions were taken to prevent tampering.
"I wasn't here," he said. "That I can't answer."
White said he would talk with someone from the supervisor's office. He was asked why he and not someone from the supervisor's office was fielding questions, and he said he wasn't sure. He mentioned that Johnson wanted to make sure that his own involvement in the counting was limited as not to raise questions about a conflict of interest, since he is also running for re-election.
White also didn't know how many provisional ballots had been cast in Hillsborough. The canvassing board will count those beginning today.
Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer