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Voter surveys litter Interstate 4 roadside

TAMPA — The intersection known for years as "malfunction junction" has another notch on its belt.

Highway workers discovered hundreds of papers with voter information early Monday on the shoulder of the westbound Interstate 4 ramp just before the entrance to southbound Interstate 275 in Tampa.

The voter survey forms, discovered about 4:15 a.m., carried the names of Tampa residents, their party affiliation, age, sex, home addresses and some phone numbers. Most of that information is obtainable from public records.

Each entry also includes an option to show whether the voter supports John McCain or Barack Obama, and check boxes to mark whether the person voted or needs a ride to the polls on Election Day.

"It was apparently boxes of surveys that fell off a truck," said Kris Carson, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation.

The papers did not belong to any election office, and state and local and local election officials directed transportation officials to destroy the materials, she said.

No one ever claimed the papers. But Michael Steinberg, chairman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, said the information appears to have been generated by a software program used by the Democratic Party called Vote Builder.

"Everyone uses the same forms. I can't tell whether the list belonged to Obama, the Florida Democratic Party or our organization," he said.

Steinberg said it was disturbing that the files were on the side of the road.

"I would be a little annoyed that the information was laying out there for anyone to pick up and look at," he said. "Whoever lost the information really needs to be more careful about how they handle it. But we really have no control over that. We apologize if anybody was upset."

He said he doubted the papers were dumped on purpose.

Carson said the questionnaires were first spotted by a traffic camera. The next call went to a private firm the state contracts with to clean up debris on roadways. Carson said that the company, Transfield Services, filled nine large garbage bags with the paper.

By 6 a.m., the papers no longer littered the roadway.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Voter surveys litter Interstate 4 roadside 11/03/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 4, 2008 11:23pm]
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