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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Vote count lags in Hillsborough, may take hours for outcome



TAMPA -- As vote tallies poured forth from several other counties, Hillsborough results have trickled out slowly in the most watched election in living memory.

Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin White, a member of the county canvassing board, said at 10:45 p.m. that the county's scanning machines were having a transmission problem sending in their results to the Election Services Center. White said the county is going to have to physically bring in about 125 of the machines so their totals can be obtained. That process could take 90 minutes after they are brought into the building, he said.

And there are about 16 machines at the center that have not had their totals uploaded, White said.

Thirty minutes later, Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson made a five-minute statement to reporters about the how the day had gone.

"It's been a beautiful day for Hillsborough County,'' he said. ""I can't tell you how happy and proud I am of this office.''

Johnson seemed to blame Premier Election Solutions, the vendor the county hired to scan the votes, for the problems tonight. He said the company was writing a statement about what happened.

He said, however, that he's satisfied with Premier and said the issues with reporting speed were not major. He said he intends to keep Premier on and gave no signal that he would revisit the contract. 

He then refused to take questions.

Earlier tonight, Kathy Harris, general counsel for Johnson, said there had been no technical problem, but there are still precincts open.

"I will talk to my technical people, but I don't get a sense of it taking a long time,'' she said.

When asked by reporters why Pinellas, Pasco and other highly populated counties were nearly done reporting their results, and HIllsborough had only posted abouit 20 percent of the vote, she shot back, "what's a long time to you?''

"We think we're doing a good job,'' she said.

Harrison's statement to the press contradicted a comment made by Canvassing Board member James Dominguez, who attributed the delay to an overwhelmed computer.

"The computer can only handle what it can handle,'' he said. 

Meanwhile, officials from Premier stood watch in a room as the results trickled in. They weren't available for comment. Reporters stood on the other side of the room, separated by a wall of glass.
Messages on the monitors of the computers crunching the data were little help. From the other side of the room, reporters saw messages such as "renegotiating protocol version number" and "upload failed - batch already uploaded."
What any of this meant was anybody's guess, as people who could comment were scarce.
"Who's in charge here?" said Jim Porter, an attorney and campaign aide for Phyllis Busansky. "This is ridiculous."
By 9 p.m., Randy Hunt, an election monitor for the Green Party, decided to leave, frustrated by the confusion.
"I'm a computer programmer and even I don't what's going on in there," Hunt said. "I do know how easy all of this is to manipulate." 

-- Janet Zink and Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writers


[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:39am]


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