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Board rejects recount request

The results will stand in spite of complaints that some voters struggled with the new system.

Concerned that Hernando County's new voting system might have failed, five candidates for local and state office on Monday asked for recounts or hand counts of the primary election results.

The local canvassing board unanimously rejected the requests made by County Commission hopefuls Pat Novy, Anna Liisa Covell and Bobbi Mills, and State House District 44 challengers Sabato DeVito and Nick Nicholson.

"The official results stand," canvassing board Chairman Peyton Hyslop announced. "Hopefully, as this system gets used over and over, (voters) will get better at it."

He referred to the most frequent candidate complaint that some voters did not understand how to fill out their ballots and, as a result, their preferences were not counted by the new computers.

Covell, who sought the commission District 1 Republican nomination, argued that the new system discriminated against people who did not know to completely fill in the oval next to their candidate's name to ensure their vote would be tallied.

"A lot of older people will not ask. They are embarrassed," Covell said, noting that in several races the total number of ballots cast did not equal the number of votes for the candidates.

Supervisor of Elections Ann Mau, also a member of the canvassing board, said many reasons could be suggested for why people did not vote in one race while they did in another. That happens, though, she said.

If voters had problems filling out their ballots, she added, the Elections Office could do only so much. Poll workers were instructed to answer all questions before people voted, she said, and Elections staffers had presented many programs teaching people about the system for about two years leading to the election.

"We cannot hold a voter's hand and guide them to make an appropriate mark," Mau said. "I would like to be able to answer why people do not follow directions. But we'd have to be clairvoyant."

Novy, who faces a runoff for the commission District 1 Democratic nomination, raised concerns that the results might have been distorted when workers at six precincts could not transmit their totals via modem to the Elections Office.

Mau explained that the actual results were printed at each precinct and certified the next morning. The information sent electronically was unofficial, Hyslop noted, and it matched the totals on the printed tapes, which were provided to each candidate.

The results were not sent by modem from places that had phone difficulties, Mau said. The elections machinery worked properly, she said.

Novy also asked why the totals shown on Time Warner Cable Channel 19 seemed to surge at the end of the evening, after about 30 minutes of inactivity. Mau responded that the government access channel was providing a public service with unofficial totals that naturally changed as more precincts reported their results.

The other candidates raised similar challenges and questions. Hyslop, Mau and Kingsley knocked down the issues one by one during a 100-minute hearing, saying they did all that was possible to ensure an accurate result. They said no evidence existed to compel them to have a recount or hand count of the ballots.

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