As Hillsborough ballot count continues, questions about security rise
TAMPA -- Officials opened a second area to count ballots at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office to speed the tabulation of about 80,000 early votes.
About 18 scanner machines were set up in the warehouse at 11:15 a.m. to count the ballots that weren't registered Tuesday. Another 24 machines had started scanning ballots about 9:30 a.m. in a separate room viewed by reporters.
The warehouse location is tucked in the back and not in view. Reporters need an escort by an elections employee to gain access to that area.
The seclusion of the second counting area didn't provide much comfort to Lee Nelson, a poll watcher for the Democratic Party.
Nelson said the warehouse location was too exposed and had little oversight. He said a member of the canvassing board should be present at all times and that the only other people allowed should be supervisor of elections employees.
During an 11:15 a.m. tour of the warehouse, reporters watched as 18 staffers sat at banquet tables feeding ballots into scanners.
The canvassing board begins counting the provisional ballots today. Canvassing board member Kevin White said he had asked twice but was not told how many there are. These ballots are given to those who wanted to vote, but the status of their registration was uncertain.
Elections employees classified them into separate categories to be reviewed by supervisors before they are counted by the canvassing board, said elections office spokeswoman Jennifer Marks. The provisional ballots were kept in a caged room in a locked warehouse, she said. Each ballot is in an envelope and sealed in a plastic bag. They are recorded into a log.