Monday, August 20, 2012

Pinellas County Can't Say 'It won't happen again'

Why? Because nearly a week later, they still don't know what went wrong during the primary election.

They remain steadfast with the story that "phone lines" are to blame.

Public information officer Nancy Witlock says the I.T. department at the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections office still has no idea what manner of glitch attacked the modem network, AKA "phone lines," on the night of the primary election

She did clear one thing up, however, the ballots were not "recounted by hand" as had been reported by the Tampa Bay Online.

Nor were they "rescanned." No. Rather, the data from 36,217 ballots contained on USB flash-drives were driven, on those flash drives in sealed numbered pouches, to the central offices of the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections and there data-dumped onto the Central vote tabulator.

According to Witlock, of the 140,231 ballots cast, 1,612 were early voted; 36,217 were voted on primary election day; and, get this 102,341 were voted absentee. And those absentee and early voted ballots were already tabulated and in the system when trouble stuck the phone lines on election night.

And yes, these numbers don't gibe. Somewhere in the mix are 61 ballots. Are those the provisional ballots they are going through trying to verify? Maybe? I will have to go back on that and check since I didn't have my "rain-man cap" on when the numbers were reported to me.

When asked about the chain of custody procedures, she wasn't prepared to answer my questions. Namely, were there more than two people in the car driving the sealed containers of the "memory sticks" or flash drives to central offices? Did the workers use their own personal vehicles?

She referred us instead to Deputy Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus, and it being 4:45 p.m. on a Monday, the later had gone home for the day.

Also, when asked what steps are being taken to ensure this doesn't happen again during the general election, Ms. Witlock said she won't know that until the IT people determine what caused the problem in the first place.

Personal observations:

1. It seems outlandish that fully 73 percent of the electorate chose to mail-in an absentee ballot rather than report to the polling location and vote in the traditional manner. Is it just that hard? That certainly must be a record.

2. Were the mystery 61 ballots voted absentee and not accepted? I'll have to check that.

3. And this is KEY, KEY, KEY.... EVERY single ballot cast ON ELECTION DAY was driven around in a vehicle of a poll worker, or staff member, BEFORE they were put up on the big board.

4. Why does it always seem that a 35K-plus number of ballots are messed about in some random indeterminate way at the last minute on election day? What is so magic about that particular number? In Hillsborough/Tampa 38K ballots were driven around in the middle of the night before they were "voted" by the elections workers. The former secretary of state Kurt Browning even said it himself in 2006 when he was Pasco SOE, when you push the button on the touch screen to "send," when you slide it in to the optical scan machine, only THEN are you "voting the ballot".

The last person to touch the ballot before it is "voted" should be the voter. Not the poll worker, not the staff member. And particularly NOT after the ballot has been driven around inside the personal vehicle of the poll worker or election staff member, who may, or may not be accompanied by anyone, who may or may not have a political agenda of their own.

5. Aside from downloading memory sticks, which is just quicker than rescanning, there is no difference between this botched election and the botched election in Hillsborough. Making this entire affair, highly suspicious.

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