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Smooth vote has Iorio gleeful

Only a few minor problems develop with new voting equipment as it is inaugurated in Hillsborough.

By DAVID KARP, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 11, 2002


TAMPA -- The first real test of Hillsborough's new voting system was going so well that Supervisor of Elections Pam Iorio was practically giddy.

She was laughing, enjoying a year of hard work that looked like it had paid off.

Then, early Tuesday afternoon, Iorio learned that Gov. Jeb Bush had extended voting statewide until 9 p.m. -- something Iorio had warned earlier would be a "big mistake."

She exhaled.

"Okay," she told a reporter. "I will have to talk to you in a little bit."

Problems in South Florida forced Iorio to keep Hillsborough polls open two hours later and pushed election results late into the night. The first of Tuesday's votes weren't counted until 9:40 p.m.

Even so, Iorio declared success. "We have had the best election we could have asked for," she said.

After Bush issued his order, Iorio had her phone bank tell each of Hillsborough's 353 precincts to remain open till 9 p.m. The workers, mostly elderly, had been on duty since 6 a.m.

Only one worker out of 3,200 said no.

"Do I like it? No," said Don Legler, polling deputy at precinct 112 on Bayshore Boulevard. But "we'll get extra pay."

Iorio hadn't slept well the night before. She had staked her reputation on the election's outcome. Back in December, when she sought $12-million for new touch screen voting machines, Iorio told reporters: "Whether or not the election is a success, and whether touch screen is a success, falls squarely on my shoulders."

She woke up Tuesday at 4:30 a.m. When she arrived at her own precinct in south Tampa, voters greeted her with hugs. The poll worker there asked her boss to show her photo ID.

"I've waited two years for this," Iorio said.

At the polling site at Coleman Middle School, Iorio's cell phone rang. It was the first problem of the day, but a minor one.

A polling site opened about 10 minutes late when the touch screen technician didn't show up for work. At several other precincts, machines broke down. But precincts had backup plans ready.

By lunchtime, it was quiet. "My cell phone hasn't rung in 30 minutes," Iorio said.

Iorio's biggest problems had nothing to do with touch screen computers. Most of the complaints were from voters whose precincts had changed because of legislative redistricting.

At a largely African-American precinct in Ybor City, poll workers told Iorio they sent scores of voters to a nearby precinct.

Geraldine Greene, who took a bus to the wrong precinct, was furious.

"You don't inconvenience the voters," she said.

-- Times staff writers Jackie Ripley and Jay Cridlin contributed to this report. David Karp can be reached at 226-3376 or karp@sptimes.com.

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