Hillsborough seeks cause of failure in voting system

Workers sort through and process absentee ballots at a Hillsborough election services center on Wednesday. Some ballots had to be rescanned due to a memory card problem on Election Day.

SCOTT MCINTYRE | Times

Workers sort through and process absentee ballots at a Hillsborough election services center on Wednesday. Some ballots had to be rescanned due to a memory card problem on Election Day.

TAMPA — Out of all the counties in the nation using the same voting support company — 32 in Florida and others in 12 states — Hillsborough is the only one to report a problem with memory cards on Election Day.

The reason the memory cards did not upload 38,000 ballots to the main system is being investigated, said Chris Riggall, spokesman for Dominion Voting Systems, the Denver vendor used by the county.

The problem forced election workers to rescan ballots representing about 10 percent of the county vote from the last two days of early voting. The recount was done by 1 a.m. Wednesday.

By Wednesday afternoon, the counting started for provisional and about 6,000 absentee ballots, said Travis Abercrombie, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office.

An elections canvassing board postponed its Wednesday meeting to 4 p.m. today to verify provisional ballots. A provisional ballot is one cast while a voter's eligibility is determined.

The delay caused by memory cards is not related to the wait on absentee and provisional ballots, which usually are counted last, Abercrombie said.

Dominion became the voting contractor in Hillsborough earlier this year after the company bought the primary assets of Premier Election Solutions.

Hillsborough commissioners had approved spending millions on the Premier voting system in early 2008. Premier was the Hills­borough contractor later that year when the company's scanning system failed and delayed vote counting.

A later report on those mishaps, which occurred in the primary and general elections under then-Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson, blamed Premier for many problems. It recommended better communication with the company. Hillsborough continues to use the same machines purchased through Premier.

"I haven't seen any final analysis on what the problem was," said Al Higginbotham, a county commissioner. "Was it software or machines? So I need more information before I can make any recommendations on that."

On Election Day, voting locations were running smoothly except for a minor issue in two precincts where vote scanners were not properly docked on top of ballot boxes.

In June, Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Earl Lennard had announced a new approach in training poll workers.

The training included getting familiar with the scanners that were improperly placed Tuesday.

Times staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this report.

Hillsborough seeks cause of failure in voting system 11/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 11:24pm]

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