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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Fast start but slow, slow finish in Pasco



DADE CITY -- Pasco County jumped out of the gate in Tuesday's primary as usual, reporting its first results to the state at 7:07 p.m. Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley beamed when his predecessor, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, called to congratulate him.

So why, then, did it take so long for the last handful of precinct results to trickle in? Why did the canvassing board have to sit around all night? And what kept the last precinct result from arriving until 11 p.m.?

It turns out Hillsborough wasn't the only county to have a problem with a vendor. Pasco saw 18 of its 147 new optical scan voting machines malfunction when they tried to transmit their tallies via modem.

"It's brand new technology," said senior deputy Jim Endress, "and we've had some issues with the modeming of the results."

It was an issue that Corley said they discovered while testing the machines weeks ago in preparation for Tuesday's election. The supervisor said he had warned the state and the vendor, Election Systems and Software, about the problem before the primary.

It's an issue that will have to be worked out before the Nov. 4 general election, Corley said.

So what happens when the modems can't transmit the voting data? The procedure calls for two poll workers -- a supervisor and a member of the opposite political party -- to remove a small hard drive with the results from the machine, seal it in a locked bank bag, and drive it to collection stations in New Port Richey, Land O'Lakes, Wesley Chapel or the main office in Dade City.

That worked in 17 of the cases. But it didn't quite work that way at Precinct 114 in southwest Zephyrhills.

Somehow two poll workers from the Crystal Springs polling place made two trips to Dade City thinking they had the hard drive with them -- only to discover each time that they didn't.

Finally, Corley dispatched three election's office staffers back to the polling place to retrieve the data. The 154th and last precinct's results were finally posted at 11:03 p.m.

The supervisor also explained that another lull in the reporting of votes -- this one around 7:30 p.m. -- was the result of too many modems trying to use too few lines. But more lines will be added for November, he said.

"We'll sit down and figure out what worked, what didn't work and what we need to tweak and improve," Corley said.

-- Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:34am]


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