Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Politics

Still few answers in botched Election Day robocalls

LARGO — As elections supervisor Deborah Clark again declined to offer an explanation for the confusing Election Day robocalls on Friday, county commissioners said they wanted answers.

"It's obviously a concern," said Commissioner Ken Welch. "We need a full explanation and a full plan of how procedures will be changed so that this never happens again."

Fortunately, it seems that the calls — which indicated to voters that they could cast ballots the day after the election — didn't cause any harm, but why they happened and who is at fault remains a mystery.

On his Twitter account earlier this week, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Clark should be fired.

Welch called that an overreaction.

"Let's get all the facts first," he said. "This cannot happen again, but I'm not going to call for any jobs over this."

People need to give Clark more time, said commissioner-elect Janet Long. The elections office, she said, has been swamped this week processing provisional ballots and certifying election results.

"She needs to get the bottom of it," Long said. "And I'm confident she will."

The calls first went out to voters on Monday, saying they had until "tomorrow" to cast their ballots. It targeted people who had requested absentee ballots but not yet sent them back.

That message was fine on Monday. But then the same call was made to thousands of people Tuesday morning — a mistake because by then, "tomorrow" meant Wednesday.

Clark initially blamed the California company she hired to send out the calls — CallFire Inc. On Wednesday, CallFire's CEO denied fault. The company has since quit responding to requests for comment.

Clark issued a news release Thursday saying her office did not initiate the Tuesday morning calls, but provided no other explanation for how or why they went out. Elections officials caught the mistake at 8:34 a.m. and soon after began sending new calls to correct the error.

Commissioner Susan Latvala said she was certain Clark would discover the truth and be honest with the public when she does.

"Deborah has owned up to her mistakes in the past," Latvala said, "and if it was her office's fault, I'm sure she will in this case."

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at [email protected]

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