Group raises concerns over provisional ballots
TAMPA -- A voting rights group is fielding calls about voters who were told to cast provisional ballots at some Hillsborough County polling places today.
At least 22 provisional ballots had been cast at Precinct 502 on Sheldon Road before 2 p.m. because some voters' correct precincts could not be verified, according to a poll worker.
Venita Vivirito said it's the first time she has seen that many provisional ballots used, but she couldn't provide information on how many were used in 2004.
The Voting Rights Project based in Washington, D.C., received several complaints about the issue, said Marcia Johnson-Blanco, senior counsel for the group. Johnson-Blanco said poll workers had tried to verify voters' correct precincts, but they couldn't get through to the elections office, and they gave voters provisional ballots instead.
At Precinct 500 in Westchase, clerk Frank Allour declined to say how many provisional ballots were cast there, but acknowledged that this morning, workers had difficulty reaching the main elections office by phone or computer to verify some voters' information.
"Rather than send them away, we gave them provisional ballots. We want everyone to vote, so we tried to accommodate them," Allour said.
Jackie Berio, a district leader for the Hillsborough Democratic Party, said she's glad many election-protection attorneys are at the polls insisting on provisional ballots when snags arise. "They are resolving a lot of problems that would otherwise go unsolved," Berio said.
Elections office spokeswoman Mia McCormick acknowledged that phone lines have been extremely busy today, with voters and precinct workers calling the office and that at times it has been difficult to get through.
Kim Wilmath, Marlene Sokol and Richard Danielson, Times staff writers