It might be Sunday or even Monday before the Hillsborough County school district gets a definitive result from Tuesday’s referendum on a property tax to increase employee salaries.
A machine recount is underway for the referendum as well as a judicial race. Candidates Mike Isaak and Linette “Starr” Brookins are competing for second place in a county judge election that is headed for a November runoff.
On the school issue, which affects teacher hiring prospects for the nation’s seventh-largest school district, the difference between the “yes” and “no” votes shrank to 591 after officials added provisional ballots, and mail-in ballots that posed questions about signatures, to the initial totals.
The “no” votes are still ahead.
But the difference now amounts to 0.26% of the 221,561 ballots cast. If results of the machine recount shrink it to 0.25%, a manual recount would follow.
The Supervisor of Elections office is required to report the second unofficial election results to the state by Sunday at 3 p.m. A meeting of the Hillsborough canvassing board is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, and an announcement might happen then.
“We’re using all the machines that we have and, of course, plenty of personnel,” elections supervisor Craig Latimer said Friday as work began. “We want to get this over with too. We know a lot of people are in suspense about what’s going on. But we’re going to do this in a methodical, slow pace.”
To prepare for the possibility of a manual recount, elections officials were separating out ballots with undervotes, in which the voters left either of the two questions blank, or overvotes, meaning they marked multiple choices. Those ballots would be scrutinized to determine voter intent that the machines might not have picked up.
“Time’s very limited on that,” Latimer said. Official results are due to the Department of State at 5 p.m. Tuesday so they can be certified by the state canvassing commission on Thursday morning.
Two attorneys were in the audience at the Robert L. Gilder Elections Service Center to represent the school district and School Board. They said they were there to observe the process.
When asked if he hopes the outcome will change, attorney Jeff Gibson said, “Absolutely. The superintendent worked very hard, and we’re hopeful. We’re optimistic.”
Also in the audience was Brookins, one of the two judicial candidates who hope to face frontrunner Melissa Black in the November runoff.
“I think this underscores the importance of voting,” Brookins said.