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A sloppy way to run elections

Hillsborough County's elections supervisor needs to stop sugar-coating the problems he's had with counting votes. Buddy Johnson may satisfy himself by blaming the problems on human error and not the new touch screen voting machines, but to the average person it is a distinction without a difference.

Johnson's office discovered last week _ 17 days after the election _ that 245 votes cast during early primary voting were recorded but not added to the election results. Johnson said an elections worker left the machine in "test" mode, keeping the votes from being tabulated. Johnson said the lapse did not alter any election, and for that, he is lucky. He, too, is up for election in November.

Missing votes was not Johnson's first or only problem. A computer malfunctioned on election night, delaying Hillsborough's primary results until nearly sunrise the following day. Had the office tested the software, the bug would have been caught. During the March Democratic presidential preference primary, workers had to return after hours to retrieve two vote-counting cartridges left behind in the machines. Only this week _ after a Times reporter told him _ did Johnson realize that his office Web site reported 7,000 fewer votes than he had reported to the state.

Given the growing debate over the integrity of touch screen voting, this kind of sloppiness cannot be tolerated.

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