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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Snag slows Hillsborough vote count

26

August

TAMPA -- Election results, stalled for more than an hour in Hillsborough County because of computer problems, has been fixed. Results are being posted now.

An hour after the primary election polls closed in Hillsborough County, Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson told reporters a computer problem caused by a vendor's system was preventing it from tallying the results.

Johnson, addressing the media at the Elections Services Center, said the problem is occurring in the system of the vendor that is handling the count -- Premier Election Solutions Inc. -- and Hillsborough is not the only county having problems. When asked which other counties were having difficulties, he could not say. "You'll have to talk to someone else, not me,'' he said, then headed back to the restricted area where tabluations are done.

The company has contracts with 33 of Florida's 67 counties, according to Johnson's office. Robert Pickett, a sales representative for Premier Election Solutions, said he had not heard of problems with the other counties. Asked why Hillsborough for now was the exception, Pickett replied: "I'd like to know that answer myself."   

A stern-faced Johnson re-emerged at 9 p.m. and said all the votes were in and counted, but could not be displayed on the county computer system as a result of a problem caused by the vendor. He said that the problem was caused by Premier's inability to upload ballots after they were counted to the posting screen.

"I haven't been able to get a straight answer from Premier, but I will by the end of the night," he said. "I expect them to fix this issue. We've paid a lot of money. My staff has done a great job.''

He then went back to the restricted area.

The company's sales representative, Pickett, agreed that his company was at fault.

"We take full responsibility," Pickett said. "It's something in our software. It's a posting problem."

Johnson's computer website posted the result of absentee ballots promptly, then stalled as surrounding counties continued to report results from the election. Pickett explained that merging the different data bases of votes -- absentee ballots, early voting, and the precincts -- caused a problem. So they had to reverse the order, taking down the absentee votes. Although no other counties complained of this problem on Tuesday, Pickett said Sarasota has a similar snafu in a trial run, that was later worked out.

Johnson stressed throughout the night that any problems with the software didn't have anything to do with the counting of votes.

"The ballots are all in. They're all safe,'' Johnson said. He added that that, if necessary, they could all be counted by hand.

Phyllis Busansky, his general election foe, arrived at the Elections Services Center amid the confusion.

Her plans to celebrate with other candidates were cut short after she said she was "inundated" with calls about the delayed results.

"It's appalling," Busansky said. "He has one job to do and it's to get those numbers to the candidates and the public."

Johnson pointed out that other counties were slow, such as Miami-Dade. Indeed, as of 10 p.m., only 53 percent of precincts there had been counted, compared to 74 percent in Hillsborough.

Throughout the night, Johnson insisted the problem didn't lie with his office.

"The elections business is not perfect," he said.

-- Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer

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

    

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