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School Board recount under way

Officials have until Sunday to report updated results for the District 3 race.

Published September 8, 2006

LARGO - A team of election officials Thursday began the long and tedious work of recounting ballots in the District 3 race for Pinellas School Board.

The multistep process was expected to keep officials up late tonight and through much of the weekend. They are supposed to meet a state deadline of 3 p.m. Sunday for reporting updated results from Tuesday's election.

"Bring your jammies," Pinellas Elections Supervisor Deborah Clark told the other two members of the county's canvassing board, County Commission Chairman Kenneth T. Welch and County Judge Patrick Caddell.

State law triggered an automatic recount when Sean Michael O'Flannery and Lew Williams finished second and third respectively in the District 3 primary, only about 220 votes apart.

The candidate who finishes second will face the race's top vote-getter, Peggy O'Shea, in the Nov. 7 general election.

Williams can halt the process but has said he wants it to play out as the law allows. Election officials say manual recounts typically would not change the outcome by any more than a handful of votes.

But Williams conceivably could gain ground on O'Flannery when officials count an estimated 370 provisional ballots cast Tuesday.

Voters are allowed to cast a provisional ballot when they show up at the wrong precinct or do not provide poll workers with both photo and signature identification.

Provisional ballots are set aside at the polls. Later, the elections office determines whether those who cast them were indeed registered voters. Under state law, however, provisional ballots may not be tallied until after a recount.

The recount started under heavy security in the county elections center in Largo, with the canvassing board working inside a locked chamber. Observers looked in through windows, and sheriff's deputies walked the hallways.

Williams spent much of the day looking on, as did O'Flannery's mother and stepfather, Sharon O'Flannery and Winn Ellenwood. O'Flannery, a teacher, arrived in the afternoon.

The recount was being conducted in two phases. The first phase, a "machine recount," focused on vote totals recorded by the estimated 3,400 voting machines used in the election.

The second and more labor intensive phase is a "manual recount" in which teams of workers will inspect tens of thousands of ballots cast Tuesday.

Contrary to popular belief, touch screen voting machines do leave a paper trail - a "ballot image" that records what each voter did. The recount teams will be looking for discrepancies in the number of undervotes, which are instances where a voter decided not to make a choice in one or more races.

[Last modified September 8, 2006, 05:48:28]

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