St. Petersburg Times
County's vote counts are called correct
May 26, 2006
By DEMORRIS A. Lee
A state audit of Pinellas County's March 7 elections determined that the outcomes were accurate, though the report noted areas where the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office could strengthen its procedures.
"I'm extremely pleased with the audit report," Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said Thursday. "It confirms what we have been saying all along, which is we used certified ballot-counting software to count the vote and that the election results are accurate."
The outcomes of the March 7 elections in Largo, Pinellas Park and Palm Harbor became suspect after a computer glitch caused a two-hour delay in getting results. Because of community concern, Clark asked for the audit, the first of its kind of a municipal election in Florida.
At issue was whether the votes were accurately counted and handled when a computer server froze for two hours.
Vote-counting stopped on election night because a technician set aside too little hard drive space on the server to handle the vote tabulation. A consultant from Sequoia Voting Systems, Pinellas' voting technology provider, passed along some computer code to the technician while he was fixing the problem.
An audit team from the state Division of Elections examined all the voting device's results, the absentee and provisional votes, as well as ballot images from randomly selected voting devices. The team also examined the installed software.
"The results of these examinations did not uncover any evidence that suggest the official results are in error," it said in an 11-page report. "The audit team did note several areas that offered opportunities for improvement. Nevertheless, it is the audit team's opinion based on the available evidence that the results for the March 7, 2006, Pinellas County elections are accurate."
The Pinellas County request was the first of its kind, forcing the state's Division of Elections to create a method of conducting the audit.
David Drury, head of the Bureau of Voting Systems Certification, said that because Clark's request was specific, it made things simpler. He said he used a comprehensive audit template created by the University of Iowa's Dr. Douglas W. Jones, an election technology specialist. Drury said the most challenging aspect was compiling the data for one report.
Clark said the audit is a vote of confidence for the more than 4,000 poll workers in the county.
"You are always looking for ways to improve your procedures," Clark said. "But for the workers, they get paid little and are not getting rich. They do it more for a community service. I don't think people realize what a huge responsibility we put on poll workers, and the responsibility continues to increase."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 727 445-4174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.