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Elections chief calls vote good, not perfect

While Elections Supervisor Pam Iorio is pleased with the performance of the new voting system, she acknowledges some bugs.

By DAVID KARP, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 2002


While Elections Supervisor Pam Iorio is pleased with the performance of the new voting system, she acknowledges some bugs.

TAMPA -- Her colleagues in Florida's largest counties spent Wednesday counting votes, but Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Pam Iorio went home early.

A vase of congratulatory purple and pink flowers sat on her desk. All day, she fielded compliments for an election well done.

Iorio's work ended Wednesday at 2:11 a.m.

Meanwhile, officials in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties spent the day counting ballots and explaining how they botched the first election with touch screen voting machines.

Taxpayers spent millions for the new computers, and election officials had two years to train for Tuesday's primary.

But hundreds of voters in South Florida couldn't cast a ballot because machines didn't work or couldn't be operated. By mid afternoon Wednesday, Florida's biggest counties still couldn't account for thousands of votes.

Iorio grimaced Tuesday night as she watched television reports about Florida's election debacle. "Training is really the key," she said.

In Hillsborough, all precinct clerks took a four-hour training course, worked a Saturday in August setting up a mock election, then took a second three-hour course before Tuesday's primary. Iorio attended about half the classes.

"We are well organized," Iorio said. "My staff? They work hard, and they are top-quality individuals."

Iorio's success fits the note-taking, Girl Scout image that first got her elected to the County Commission in 1985. She was 26 years old.

But she wasn't bragging Wednesday.

"I would like to give the credit to the poll workers," said Iorio, now 43. "They did an outstanding job."

Iorio's election wasn't flawless.

The new voting system was supposed to make results come in faster. But the first wave of totals did not come in until an hour and a half after the polls closed.

Hillsborough finished counting 100 percent of its votes at 2:11 a.m. That put it 55th out of 67 counties. Most of the fastest counties were small and rural.

Among large, metropolitan counties, Hillsborough was the second-fastest to complete work. Only Pinellas, which finished at 1:42 a.m., was speedier.

Among the 15 counties that installed new touch screen voting machines, Hillsborough came in 11th.

Many of the faster counties, including Pasco, purchased voting machines that allow precinct workers to send in results over a phone line. Pasco, which counted 59,968 ballots, finished almost all of its counting before midnight.

Iorio didn't opt for a system such as Pasco's, fearing it would be too complicated. Rather than use a modem, poll workers in Hillsborough drove computer disks to four sites.

Iorio wasn't worried about speed.

"The first time out we are not focusing on time of arrival," she said.

Others would have preferred faster results.

"I think they ought to do it by modem," said Hillsborough GOP Chairwoman Margie Kincaid, who said she was impressed with the county's overall performance. "My goodness, they do international banking by modem."

Another problem with Hillsborough's voting system is its lack of privacy.

In many precincts, voters waiting in line could see their neighbor touching the voting screen.

"I think it is an issue we are going to have to continue to address," Iorio said.

-- David Karp can be reached at 226-3376 or karp@sptimes.com.

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