tampabay.com

Davis disputes voting report

By JONI JAMES and ALEX LEARY
Published November 2, 2006


Hillsborough County elections records show congressman Jim Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, may not have cast a vote in the infamous 2000 Florida presidential election, though Davis insists he did.

A copy of Davis' voting history, signed by Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson, shows Davis was a regular voter dating back to at least 1984, but that he did not cast a ballot at a polling place or by absentee ballot for the Nov. 7, 2000, election.

In a late night phone conference with reporters Wednesday, Davis strongly disputed the record and said he remembered casting his vote for Democrat Al Gore that day at his Davis Islands precinct.

Also on the call was Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, a Davis supporter who was Hillsborough's elections supervisor during the 2000 election. She said a clerical or voter error could easily explain the omission on Davis' voter history, which is built by scanning bar codes from precinct logs signed by voters.

"The paper is wrong. I registered to vote in 1976 and every major election day since then when I haven't voted by absentee ballot, I have voted.

"I voted for Al Gore and I felt very strongly about who our next president should be and I had a very strong preference about who my congressman should be, and that was me," Davis said.

The 2000 election in Florida ended in dispute and acrimony as all the world waited 36 days to see whether the state's electoral votes would go to Republican George Bush or Gore.

The canceled recount and 537-vote margin is a bitter part of Democratic Party lore and remains a rallying cry for party loyalists around the state.

Davis campaign spokesman Josh Earnest said campaign staffers researched Davis' voting record 18 months ago in preparation for his gubernatorial campaign and were told Davis had voted in every major election.

But Earnest said the staffers who did the research did not get a written record because they were told it couldn't be printed.

Johnson, reached Wednesday, said that was incorrect. "It's clearly a public document," he said.

Johnson said the one-page document summarizing Davis' record was an accurate reflection of the vote history his office has on file. But he said he couldn't attest to the accuracy of that history before he took office in 2003.

"The history reflects the records I inherited when I became the supervisor of elections," said Johnson, who was appointed to his job by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003.

On Election Day in 2000, Davis spent part of the day campaigning with presidential candidate Gore. The two Democrats visited the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute where they talked to workers about soaring health care costs.

Information that Davis may have missed the most crucial national election of recent history comes on top of ads from Davis' opponent, Republican Attorney General Charlie Crist, that note Davis' poor attendance in Congress in the past two years as he has campaigned for governor.

"If true, it's staggering," said Erin Isaac, spokeswoman for Crist's campaign. "But it seems to be part of a consistent problem of not showing up to vote."

The Times reviewed Crist's records in Pinellas and Leon counties for the past several years and found he has been a consistent voter.

Davis, first elected to Congress in 1996, faced only token opposition in his 2000 re-election.