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Cause of Pinellas voting glitch still a mystery

Pinellas County officials still don't know exactly what went wrong with the county's election system during Tuesday's primary.

Minutes after the polls closed, election workers found themselves unable to electronically transmit the vote tallies to the main office in Largo. Instead, they drove the memory sticks to election headquarters, delaying publication of the final results by about 90 minutes.

The problem, county officials said, came from the phone lines leading into the server. But on Wednesday they could not say what might have caused the phone lines to fail, or how quickly county technicians would be able to repair them.

Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark on Tuesday promised that the system would be up and running in time for the Nov. 6 general election.

"They'll just have to look and see where the problem came from and they've assured us they'll work to take care of it as soon as possible," said spokeswoman Nancy Whitlock.

Other counties across Florida and in the Tampa Bay area use the same system that Pinellas relies on to transfer results electronically.

Pasco County switched to the same system in 2002 and has had only one glitch: an incident in 2008 when too many precincts tried to send in their tallies at once and overwhelmed the system.

"It was like 75 airplanes trying to land at the same time," said Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley. Now, the county trains its election workers to stagger delivery times and has not had a problem since.

Hillsborough County employs a different vendor from Pinellas, but it uses the same dial-up connection system, said spokesman Travis Abercrombie.

Hillsborough's 347 precincts bring their vote tallies to a handful of central locations, such as churches, and then send them in batches to the main office. On Tuesday, this went off without a hitch, he said.

Because the system relies on phone lines, something as simple as inclement weather could have interrupted service in Pinellas, Corley said.

On Tuesday, Clark said she and her staff had repeatedly tested the delivery system from different precincts and the information went through without a hitch. "Of course it worked then," she said.

Cause of Pinellas voting glitch still a mystery 08/15/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 10:32pm]
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